In wake of Parkland shootings, Rick Scott stops in Tampa to push school safety plan

“We have to change the direction of the state,” Scott says.
Florida Governor Rick Scott spoke to the media at the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department, in Tampa on Wednesday. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Florida Governor Rick Scott spoke to the media at the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department, in Tampa on Wednesday. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Feb. 28, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott came to Tampa on Wednesday to pitch his $500 million plan to improve safety at schools in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland two weeks ago.

"We have to get something done," Scott said during an appearance at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office alongside Tampa Bay-area law enforcement leaders. "We have to change the direction of the state."
Scott outlined individual provisions of his plan, including expanded background checks.

"We've got to keep guns out of the hands of people struggling with mental illness," he said.

Scott unveiled the plan last week, but the stop in Tampa allowed the governor, who is widely expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, to stand in front of a row of a television cameras in one of the state's largest media markets.

Among those present were Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter and Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, who hosted the governor's appearance, praised Scott for what he called a common sense approach instead of a "knee jerk reaction."

The stop also allowed the public to get a sense of where Chronister stands in a gun reform debate that has created divisions in his own Republican party.

Scott appointed Chronister, a Republican, to the post last year after Sheriff David Gee abruptly retired. Chronister is Gee's handpicked successor and is running for the seat in an election to be decided this November.

Among the proposals in Scott's plan:

• $450 million to put a law enforcement officer in every public school, and one officer for every 1,000 students by 2018 school year.

• Increased Safe Schools funding to provide metal detectors, bulletproof glass, steel doors.

• Hire more mental health counselors to serve 'every student' at school.

• Assign a Department of Children and Families caseworker to all 67 county sheriffs in Florida.

• A law requiring all people buying firearms to be 21 or older.

• Tighter gun purchase restrictions for those who have been committed under Baker Act.

• Empower the courts to prevent people from getting guns based on sworn petition of a threat of violence. A new program, Violent Threat Restraining Order, would allow police to remove firearms from those who are mentally ill.

• A ban on bump stock sales.

• Mandatory active shooter drills in all Florida schools by the 2018 fall semester.

• New "See Something, Say Something" hotline, website and mobile app.

The plan does not include arming teachers, a ban on specific weapons like the AR-15 rifle or a waiting period before purchasing weapons.

Scott has said that confronting assailants should be the job of law enforcement and that banning specific weapons would punish law-abiding citizens and not be a defective deterrent. As for waiting periods, Scott insists his proposals would help prevent dangerous people from getting guns.

Republicans in the Legislature have proposed several measures that align with Scott's plan, including increasing the minimum age that someone can buy a rifle to 21, strengthening background checks and allowing someone to petition a judge to take away someone's guns.

Some lawmakers do favor waiting periods and arming teachers.

A House bill would impose a three-day waiting period for gun purchases.

And on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee, voting along party lines, approved training teachers to carry guns in class under the direction of local law enforcement — if superintendents or school boards approve. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar bill later in the day.