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Florida lawmakers pass gun control bill, defying gun lobby

The Florida state legislature in the US has passed legislation that would impose new restrictions on gun sales and allow some teachers and staff to carry firearms in schools following last month’s high school massacre.

Florida lawmakers gave final passage to a $400 million gun control and school safety bill on Wednesday in defiance of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby that opposes firearm restrictions.

The bill now goes to Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has 15 days to sign it into law.

The vote came three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people in a rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the city of Parkland.

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The legislation would raise the minimum age to purchase weapons from 18 to 21; impose a three-day waiting period on firearm purchases; allow local school districts to arm certain school personnel and fund school police officers and mental health counselors.

It would also ban so-called bump stocks, which enable semi-automatic rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute, and give law enforcement more power to arrest people considered a threat.

However, the bill still fell short of the demands of many of the students and educators who have in recent weeks led a national call for stronger firearm restrictions.

The suspect in the high school massacre on February 14, Nikolas Cruz, was charged on Wednesday with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

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It was the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in US history. It was also the 18th school shooting since January 1 in the US, which loses around 33,000 people to gun violence every year.

The indictment of Cruz, 19, who has confessed to the killings, was essentially a formality, and the primary legal debate now centers on whether prosecutors should seek the death penalty.

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