The Florida Senate is advancing a bill that would increase school safety and restrict gun purchases in the wake of last month’s deadly school shooting.
The Senate on Saturday debated dozens of amendments to the100-page bill before it approves the legislation for a final vote on Monday.
During the almost 8-hour session, senators discussed the Republican-crafted bill which had some GOP opponents who argued against raising the minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 or requiring a waiting period to buy the weapons.
Democrats, on the other hand, want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which a gunman used to fatally shoot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
There were many Democratic senators who were also opposed to arming teachers.
The bill also aims to establish new mental health programs in schools, and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.
The debate revolved mostly around gun control and the right to own an assault rifle.
“Every constitutional right that we hold dear has a limitation,” said Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer. “These are just military-style killing machines and the right of self-defense and the ability to hunt will go on.”
Republicans, however, maintained that banning such weapons would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Our founding fathers weren’t talking about hunting, and they weren’t talking about protecting themselves from the thief down the street who might break in,” said Republican Sen. David Simmons whose argument was that people need guns to protect themselves from a tyrannical government.
“Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons — took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody — and then on the night of June 30th, 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents,” Simmons said. “You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does.”
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is opposed to arming teachers, has been lobbying lawmakers to pass his plan to have at least one law-enforcement officer for every 1,000 students at a school.
Most members of Congress do not currently support an assault weapons ban.
The United States has a powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), which contributes heavily to the election campaigns of most members of Congress, particularly Republicans.