Florida Passes Gun-Control Laws
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law new gun restrictions on Friday, the first enacted in the state after the Parkland school shooting last month where 17 people were killed, and in fact, the first gun control measures in decades in Florida. Here's Governor Scott speaking at the signing ceremony yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
RICK SCOTT: To the families of all the victims, including Tony Montalto, the father of Gina, and Gena Hoyer, the mother of Luke, who are also with us today - I know there is nothing we could ever do to ease your pain. But know that through the passage of this legislation, the state of Florida will forever honor the incredible impact your loved ones have had on our state. They will never be forgotten.
MARTIN: The bill imposes some controls on ownership of guns and accessories, but it also includes funding for local sheriffs to train school staff to carry concealed weapons, and that part of the law was strongly opposed not just by teachers' groups but also civil rights groups like the NAACP. Here's State Representative Kamia Brown speaking at a press conference earlier this month.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
KAMIA BROWN: While the vast majority of our teachers are wonderful people, there could be situations where guns are actually used against minority students because a teacher says that he or she fears for her life and the safety of others. In this bill, there is no exception to the already law, stand your ground included. Teachers authorized to carry under this Marshall program will be able to stand their ground when they are threatened by any student, not just an active shooter, and avoid all civil and criminal liability.
MARTIN: Representative Brown ultimately decided to vote against the gun control package. We wanted to hear more about her reasons for doing so, so we called her at her office in Tallahassee earlier today. She started our conversation by explaining that one of her main objections to the law was the relative lack of training being prescribed for school personnel before allowing them to carry weapons.
BROWN: When this plan came forward, this would provide school personnel such as our teachers, or coaches, janitors, it would arm them. It would provide 132 hours of training with our sheriff's department. And just to step back, our trained law enforcement officers are provided over 800 hours on average to be trained on how to de-escalate situations. They're trained on how to use a gun properly. To me, 132 hours is inadequate.
MARTIN: The comment from the press conference that we played earlier, you referenced stand your ground. You know, why do you feel that that's a particular concern for minority students?
BROWN: There are often many disparities when it comes to black and brown students. They are more likely to be suspended for typical behaviors such as arguing or talking back to our teachers or authority. Many of them are not given that same chance or seen in the same light as many of our Caucasian students. This is a concern that we, who represent minority students, have to kind of think about.
MARTIN: You're concerned that people have a propensity to see black and brown kids as more - particularly African-American kids, let's just say that - as more threatening than they might see a kid from a different background. And your concern is that a teacher or a school personnel who might overreact and kill somebody. Is that your concern?
BROWN: Absolutely. Studies show that many of our black and brown students are often seen as a threat.
MARTIN: Representative Brown, you mentioned that you felt strongly enough about this issue that you voted against this measure which many people were calling, you know, significant because it is the first time Florida has enacted any kinds of gun restrictions and restrictions on ownership or accessories or anything of that sort in like two decades now. How are you going to explain your vote when the session ends and you go back and talk to your - you know, what are you going to say to them for people who are going to say, how could you have voted against something like that, we need that? What are you going to say?
BROWN: This bill, it definitely was an inefficient attempt to do a quick fix to a large problem that we have. This bill did not address many of the concerns relating to assault weapons. This bill did not address the concerns of school safety. I have teachers who have grave concerns for not only the students that are within those classrooms but also personnel. When you look at what we put on our teachers, these folks are already stressed. And so to add another layer of stress and not enough training, the risk was too great for me to say and vote yes on this bill.
MARTIN: That's Florida state legislator Kamia Brown. She's a Democrat. She represents the 45th State House District in Florida. We reached her at her office in Tallahassee. Representative Brown, thanks so much for speaking with us.
BROWN: My pleasure. Thank you for having me on your show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.