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Florida governor signs gun restrictions 3 weeks after attack

Florida governor signs gun restrictions 3 weeks after attack

Florida governor signs gun restrictions 3 weeks after attack
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
CORRECTS ID OF WOMAN TO GENA HOYER INSTEAD OF JENNIFER MONTALTO - Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act in the governor's office at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Friday, March 9, 2018. Scott is flanked by victims' parents Gena Hoyer, left, Ryan Petty, second from left, Andrew Pollack, right, and his son Hunter Pollack, second from right. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Florida governor signs gun restrictions 3 weeks after attack

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a far-reaching school-safety bill Friday that places new restrictions on guns in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting, cementing his state's break with the National Rifle Association. The NRA immediately fought back with a lawsuit.

The new law capped an extraordinary three weeks of lobbying that followed the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with student survivors and grieving families working to persuade a Republican-run state government that had shunned gun control measures.

Surrounded by family members of the 17 people killed in the Valentine's Day shooting, the GOP governor said the bill balances "our individual rights with need for public safety."

"It's an example to the entire country that government can and has moved fast," said Scott, whose state has been ruled for 20 years by gun-friendly Republican lawmakers.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the shooting, read a statement from victims' families: "When it comes to preventing future acts of horrific school violence, this is the beginning of the journey. We have paid a terrible price for this progress."

The bill fell short of achieving the ban on assault-style weapons sought by survivors. The gunman who opened fire at the school used such a weapon, an AR-15 rifle.

Nevertheless, the bill raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns and bans bump stocks, which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire. It also creates a so-called guardian program enabling some teachers and other school employees to carry guns.

The NRA insisted that the measure "punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual." The group promptly filed a lawsuit to block the provision that raises the age to buy guns, arguing that it violates the Second Amendment.

The Parkland gunman "gave repeated warning signs that were ignored by federal and state officials. If we want to prevent future atrocities, we must look for solutions that keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans," Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

The signing marked a major victory for the teens who lived through the attack and swiftly became the public faces of a renewed gun-control movement. Just days after the shooting, they began holding rallies, lobbying lawmakers and harnessing the power of social media in support of reform.

The governor told the students: "You helped change our state. You made a difference. You should be proud."

Scott, who said he is an NRA member and will continue to be one, said he is still "not persuaded" about the guardian program that will let districts authorize staff members to carry handguns if they complete law enforcement training. It is not mandatory.

"If counties don't want to do this, they can simply say no," he said.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died, called the new law "a start for us."

His teenage son Hunter added: "Let's get the rest of the country to follow our lead and let's make schools safe. Let's harden the schools and make sure this never happens again."

The governor singled out two fathers whose children were killed, saying that they walked the halls of the Legislature since the shooting seeking change.

"I know the debate on all these issues will continue. And that's healthy in our democracy," he said. "This is a time for all of us to come together, roll up our sleeves and get it done."

Student activists from the school called it "a baby step."

"Obviously, this is what we've been fighting for. It's nowhere near the long-term solution," said Chris Grady, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High. "It's a baby step but a huge step at the same time. Florida hasn't passed any legislation like this in God knows how long."

The bill narrowly passed the House and Senate, which formally delivered the reform package on Thursday.

In schools, the measure creates new mental health programs and establishes an anonymous tip line for reporting threats. It also seeks to improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

Broward County teachers union President Anna Fusco said teachers supported the bill but not the provision that allows them to carry guns.

She said she wants Scott to veto the money for the guardian program when he receives the budget. The governor cannot veto individual items in the bill itself, but he does have line-item veto power with the budget.

The Broward County school superintendent has already said he does not want to participate in the program.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old former student accused of assaulting the school went before a judge. Nikolas Cruz faces 17 counts of murder and attempted murder. In a brief hearing Friday, he stood with his head bowed as he appeared via video conference.

Cruz's public defender has said he will plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table and sentence him to life in prison instead. Prosecutors have not announced a decision.


Associated Press writers Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida; Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida; and Curt Anderson, Terry Spencer, Jennifer Kay and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.


Follow the AP's complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/Floridaschoolshooting .

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  • Ending weeks of negotiations between Congress and the White House, GOP leaders on Wednesday night released a $1.3 trillion funding plan for the federal government, an agreement that will result in over $100 billion in new spending in 2018, causing heartburn – and opposition – among more conservative Republicans in the House. Almost six months behind schedule on their budget work, lawmakers produced a mammoth bill, which weighs in at 2,232 pages, the product of extended talks that almost went awry at the last minute. The bill was highlighted by the inclusion of a number of non-spending provisions, like two measurse championed in the aftermath of the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which would get more information into the background check system for gun buyers, and to help schools better recognize possible problems with violence. Each party had a laundry list of items that they trumpeted in a flurry of news releases sent to reporters – for Republicans, that often included more money for the Pentagon, while Democrats focused on more money for domestic programs. BREAKING: Budget bargainers clinch $1.3 trillion deal bearing big defense, domestic boosts, no protections for Dreamer immigrants. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 22, 2018 In all, almost 4,000 pages of bill text and supporting materials were released to lawmakers – almost impossible for anyone to read before the votes, which are expected on Thursday. But we did some speed reading – and here is some of what we found: 1. The Omnibus features more spending from budget deal. Following through on a bipartisan budget agreement from earlier this year, this funding measure adds more money to the Pentagon – raising the overall military budget to $700 billion this year, and $716 billion in 2019. This year’s hike was $61 billion: “This is the biggest year-to-year increase in defense funding in 15 years,” GOP leaders said in their argument to Republican lawmakers. More money is also added for domestic programs, but that did not match the defense increase, but it was still one reason why Democrats signed on to the agreement. The total for discretionary funding is $1.3 trillion, more than any single year of the Obama Administration. This critical funding bill fulfills our pledge to rebuild the nation’s military. It also addresses many of our national priorities, such as school safety, infrastructure, and fighting the opioid epidemic. — Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 22, 2018 2. More conservative Republicans not pleased. Even before the details were out on the Omnibus, it wasn’t hard to tell what members of the House Freedom Caucus were going to do on this bill – vote against it – even with the big increase in defense funding. “That is not in anyway close to what the election was about, close to what we campaigned on,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). “We all campaigned on changing the status quo,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH). “I think all of us agree we’re spending too much,” he added. But that was a minority view within the party, as GOP leaders focused more on the big increase in military funding. – Record spending levels – No wall/border security – Obamacare intact – Funds Planned Parenthood – Sanctuary Cities funded – Barely 24 hours to read a 2,300 page bill This Omnibus is so far from what the forgotten men and women of America voted for. I will oppose it. — Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) March 22, 2018 3. President Trump backs it with some reservations. After evidently wavering on the details during the day on Wednesday, the President took to Twitter a few hours later to trumpet some of the details in the agreement, and to knock Democrats for what’s not in the Omnibus – as there is no agreement dealing with younger illegal immigrant children, known as the “Dreamers.” “Democrats refused to take care of DACA,” the President said. “Would have been so easy, but they just didn’t care.” Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year…most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018 4. Trump could have had much more for border wall. While the President professed himself satisfied with $1.6 billion in money for border security, Democrats reminded him that they had offered $25 billion for the wall, in exchange for provisions allowing the “Dreamers” to stay in the U.S., and for many to get on a 12-year pathway to citizenship. But for a variety of reasons, the President did not want to accept that kind of an agreement with Congress, as both parties blamed the other for the lack of a deal. As for that $1.6 billion, the bill limits where it can be used: 5. NASA sees a budget boost. With the spending spigot open in this bill, there are very few mentions of cuts in the documents handed out by Republicans, as agencies like NASA instead saw their budgets boosted. NASA – which has drawn strong words of praise from President Trump since he took office – saw its budget go above $20 billion for the first time ever, jumping just over $1 billion. That will be good news to lawmakers in Florida – and many other states – which have a piece of NASA’s research and operations. 6. Omnibus includes funds for a new Hurricane Hunter plane. After a round of devastating hurricane strikes in 2017, this spending plan will direct $121 million to buy a “suitable replacement” for a Gulfstream IV Hurricane Hunter plane, which will insure that enough planes are ready for a busy storm season. For example, in late September and early October of 2017, one of those planes had three separate mechanical problems – but when it was grounded, there was no backup plane. That’s long been a concern for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and he noted the provision last night after the bill was released. Just learned that funding for another Hurricane Hunter jet is in the $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress will vote on this week. I've been relentless on this because 20 million Floridians are in the potential path of a hurricane & data from this aircraft saves lives & property. — Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) March 22, 2018 7. A big change for the Internal Revenue Service. After years of seeing budget reductions, the IRS was a budget winner in this Omnibus spending agreement, as the agency’s budget will go up almost $200 million to $11.43 billion. There will be $320 million specifically dedicated to implementation of the new tax cut law, which was approved late in 2017, in order to change all the forms, schedules, and internal systems to reflect those changes in tax year 2018. $350 million will be directed to improve IRS customer service, which has been suffering more and more telephone delays in recent years. It was a bit of a switch for the GOP to be bragging about how much money they were spending at the IRS, instead of vowing to find new ways to cut the budget at the tax agency. 8. Trump wanted to end transportation grants. Congress tripled them. One piece of President Trump’s budget plan for 2019, was a proposal to eliminate “TIGER” grants for infrastructure. But instead of getting rid of that $500 million program, Congress increased it by $1 billion, tripling the size of those popular transportation grants. Mr. Trump’s first budget also tried to get rid of the TIGER program, but when you look at the budget, you realize quickly that grant programs are popular in both parties, because they funnel money to the folks back home. 9. The ban on funding for a group that no longer exists. Once again, this year’s funding bills from Congress include a provision to make sure no federal dollars go to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform, known as ACORN – even though ACORN has disbanded – that happened eight years ago, in 2010. But Republicans have wanted to make sure that any group which looks anything like ACORN, or might turn out to be a progressive grass roots group which acts like ACORN, doesn’t get any federal funding in the future. The new congressional spending bill once again bans funds for ACORN, an organization that once helped poor people but no longer exists. cc @zachdcarter pic.twitter.com/YJVQzOb4Fv — Arthur Delaney (@ArthurDelaneyHP) March 22, 2018 10. Death payment for a late lawmaker. Earlier this week came the sad news that Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) had died, after the 88 year old veteran lawmaker had fallen at her home. When members die while in office, it is customary for the Congress to approve a full year’s salary for that member’s spouse or estate. It’s officially known on a budget line as “Payment to Widows and Heirs of Deceased Members of Congress.” Looking through the fine print – it’s actually characterized as “mandatory” spending – and not discretionary. The House will vote first on the plan – most likely on Thursday. The Senate is expected to follow suit soon after. Lawmakers are then expected to leave town for a two week Easter break.
  • Tulsa police were called to the Rest Inn and Suites near Admiral and Memorial Tuesday night around 10:30. A man from Nebraska, with warrants for manufacturing automatic weapons, was inside and refusing to come out. The S.W.A.T team was concerned about any possible weapons inside, so they closed a part of Admiral for several hours to keep drivers away. Investigators believe the suspect, 49-year-old Rush Hembree, held a pregnant girlfriend hostage. Police say he did some damage to hotel walls trying to escape. Hembree came out of the room around 3:30pm.
  • After weeks of negotiations, Congress unveiled a $1.3 trillion funding measure for the federal government on Wednesday night, adding billions in new spending for both the Pentagon and domestic spending programs, adding in a pair of bills dealing with school safety and gun violence, but including no deals on some politically difficult issues like the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers.” The 2,232 pages of bill text were quietly posted by GOP leaders after yet another day of closed door negotiations, which included a trip down to the White House by House Speaker Paul Ryan. “No bill of this size is perfect,” Ryan said in a written statement, as he touted the extra money in the plan for the U.S. military. “But this legislation addresses important priorities and makes us stronger at home and abroad,” Ryan added. BREAKING: Budget bargainers clinch $1.3 trillion deal bearing big defense, domestic boosts, no protections for Dreamer immigrants. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) March 22, 2018 Among the items included in the Omnibus funding bill: + The bipartisan “Fix NICS” bill, which would press states and federal agencies to funnel more information into the instant background check system for gun buyers. + The “STOP School Violence Act,” which would send grant money to local governments to help schools better recognize possible violent threats in schools and their communities. + A series of corrections to the recent tax cut law. Even before the text of the bill was unveiled, a number of Republicans were not pleased, arguing the GOP has done little to merit the support of voters back home, saying it will mean more spending and a bigger government. “That is not in any way close to what the election was about,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who argued the President should veto the bill. Also causing some irritation was the fact that the bill was negotiated with little input from most lawmakers, and sprung on them just hours before the House and Senate were due to head out of town on a two week Easter break. We should have been on the House floor all year, in front of @cspan cameras, debating and amending spending bills. Instead, nearly all of Congress is waiting to see what omnibus bill emerges from the smoke filled room. Post offices are getting named… at least there’s that. — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 20, 2018 It’s a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats might bust the budget caps, fund planned parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak gun control without due process into an Omni…wait, what? — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 21, 2018 “There is not a single member of Congress who can physically read it, unless they are a speed reader,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). One of the many provisions in the bill included a $174,000 payment to the estate of the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who died earlier this week. Those type of payments are typical when a lawmaker dies while in office. GOP leaders hope to vote on the Omnibus in the House on Thursday, as lawmakers are ready to go home for a two-week break for Easter.
  • Sure. Take that quiz about which hair-metal band is your spirit animal. Share a few snaps of your toddler at the beach and watch the likes pile up. Comment on that pointed political opinion from the classmate you haven’t seen since the Reagan administration. Just remember that your familiar, comforting online neighborhood — the people you care about most and those you only kinda like — exists entirely on a corporate planet that’s endlessly ravenous to know more about you and yours. On a day when our virtual friends wrung their virtual hands about whether to leave Facebook, a thoroughly 21st-century conundrum was hammered home: When your community is a big business, and when a company’s biggest business is your community, things can get very messy. You saw that all day Tuesday as users watched the saga of Cambridge Analytica unfold and contemplated whether the chance that they had been manipulated again — that their data might have been used to influence an election — was, finally, reason enough to bid Facebook goodbye. Not an easy choice. After all, how would Mom see photos of the kids?
  • The suspected Austin serial bomber who apparently killed himself early Wednesday as authorities closed in on him was Pflugerville resident Mark A. Conditt, local and federal law enforcement sources told the American-Statesman and KVUE. >> Read more trending news As the sun rose, neighbors of the 23-year-old, who was home-schooled growing up and went to Austin Community College, struggled to wrap their minds around the news that he was the suspected bomber. “I know this is a cliché but I just can’t imagine that,” said one neighbor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and whose children grew up playing with Conditt on Pfluger Street. The neighbor described Conditt as a nice kid from a great family. Police have said that Conditt, who was home-schooled growing up, was 24, although some public records indicate he was 23. Conditt received a degree from Austin Community College’s Northridge Campus and had worked at Crux Semiconductor in Austin as a “purchasing Agent/buyer/shipping and receiving,” according to a profile on a job recruiting website. He previously worked as a computer repair technician. >> Related: Photos: Austin police investigate explosions There are very few public social media posts under his name. His mother, Danene Conditt, posted a picture of him in February 2013 to mark his completing a high school-level education. “I officially graduated Mark from High School on Friday. 1 down, 3 to go. He has 30 hrs of college credit too, but he’s thinking of taking some time to figure out what he wants to do….maybe a mission trip. Thanks to everyone for your support over the years.” >> See complete coverage of the Austin bombings from the Austin American-Statesman He and his father, Pat Conditt, purchased a Pflugerville property last year that is now valued at about $69,000. The neighbor said Mark Conditt had been living in that house, which he built with his father’s help. Police said Wednesday morning that they believe Mark Conditt created all of the explosive devices used in the recent bombings himself. They are not sure how he spent his last 24 hours and cautioned Austinites to remain vigilant in case he placed bombs that have yet to go off.