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Fathers of slain Parkland students beg Florida reps to pass gun bill

While Florida House members sparred Wednesday over a gun control measure, the fathers of two girls killed in the Park...

Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 10:50 AM
Updated: Mar. 7, 2018 10:50 AM

While Florida House members sparred Wednesday over a gun control measure, the fathers of two girls killed in the Parkland school massacre showed up to make one final plea: Pass Senate Bill 7026.

"There's so many good things in the bill, that if someone opposes it, it's hard for me to comprehend why," said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Two fathers said they spoke on behalf of the 17 families who lost relatives

Florida's legislative session ends this week

He and Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina, traveled 450 miles to Tallahassee to speak, they said, on behalf of the 17 families of those killed in the February 14 rampage.

"As families, we've got different opinions, we come from different backgrounds," Petty said. "We came together, we're united behind this legislation, and our ask is that the House come together as the families have done and pass this bill."

SB 7026 -- dubbed the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" -- would add several gun control measures to the books in Florida.

It would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, require a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, and ban the sale or possession of bump-fire stocks. The bill also would give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit and provide more funding for mental health services and armed school resource officers.

But a key sticking point is whether to allow some school staff members to carry guns as part of voluntary program, implemented only if the local sheriff's department and school district agree.

The bill now excludes teachers who "exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers" from being allowed to carry guns at school. Those who have military or law enforcement experience or who teach Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs could be eligible, with 144 hours of training.

Many students say they oppose arming teachers in school, and some staged a "die-in" at the state capitol during this final week of the legislative session.

Pollack, whose son said he agreed with President Donald Trump on arming some teachers, said the bill might not be perfect -- but in this case, it's better than nothing.

"Nothing in life is ever perfect," the father said. "But the majority of this bill is going to help the communities."

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