By PATRICIA MAZZEI
© 2018 New York Times News Service
MIAMI — Florida’s nickname has long been the “Gunshine State” because of its plethora of firearms and loose gun restrictions. Then a troubled teenager stormed into a South Florida high school and shot 17 people dead.
Friday, in a dramatic turnaround in one of the most gun-friendly states in America, Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an array of gun limits that included raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extending the waiting period to three days. It was the most aggressive action on gun control taken in the state in decades and the first time Scott, who had an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, had broken so significantly from the group.
The sweeping and bipartisan law is named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a former student, Nikolas Cruz, was charged with launching the massacre on Feb. 14. The law imposes new restrictions on firearm purchases and the possession of “bump stocks,” funds more school police officers and mental health services, broadens law enforcement’s power to seize weapons, and allows certain staff members to carry guns in schools.
Standing with a group of families who had traveled to the State Capitol from Parkland, an emotional Scott called the classmates of the slain students and their parents his inspiration.
“You made your voices heard,” he told the Stoneman Douglas High students. “You helped change your state. You made a difference. You should be proud.”
Outside of Tallahassee, the law might not look that groundbreaking: It does not go as far as laws enacted by other more Democratic-leaning states after deadly shootings. Connecticut expanded a ban on assault weapons, prohibited the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and imposed stricter background checks on gun purchases after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012. Colorado required background checks for private gun sales and limited magazines after 12 people were killed at a movie theater in 2012.
But this is Florida, a laboratory for the NRA and a state that has become recognized for its consistent efforts under legislative Republican control since 1996 to expand gun rights.
The NRA declared itself “disappointed" Friday after Scott signed the law.