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Florida lawmakers propose gun control laws

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Activists and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a rally at the Florida State Capitol building to address gun control on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.Image copyright
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Surviving students from the Parkland school have been calling on lawmakers to address gun control

Florida lawmakers have proposed a package of gun control bills in what US media are calling swift action in the wake of a mass shooting.

They envisage raising the legal age to buy rifles from 18 to 21 and giving police more control to seize weapons from mentally ill people.

There is also a controversial bill to arm school staff, including teachers.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is due to re-open its doors, two weeks after a gunman killed 17 people there.

Armed guards and grief counsellors will be waiting for students of the Parkland school as they return to class, according to US news outlet CBS.

“Usually, I always greet the kids at the door,” Ernest Rospierski, a teacher at the school, told the BBC. But when he reunites with them at 08:40 local time (13:40 GMT), he will tell them “how much it makes me legitimately excited to have them back in the room and to have the ability to be in front of them again”.

The school’s Building 12, the site of one of America’s worst mass shootings, will remain closed and cordoned off indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the members of Florida’s State House and Senate will begin reviewing the proposed bills, which need their approval and also that of Governor Rick Scott.

The governor has previously said he opposes “arming teachers”.

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Media captionTrump: ‘I would have run in even if I didn’t have weapon’

The controversial $67m voluntary programme to arm school staff, including teachers, would ensure they were trained by law enforcement and allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Lawmakers had already given an initial green light to what has become known as the “marshal programme”, despite protest by many parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.

They argued that educators should not have to take on the role of the police. A similar programme already exists in Polk County, in central Florida.

In addition to proposing a rise in the minimum legal age to buy all rifles, legislators from the budget committees from the House and Senate want to impose a three-day waiting period for any gun purchases. Handgun buyers must already be at least 21 and wait for three days.

Legislators also want to outlaw the sale of bump stocks – a piece of plastic or metal that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire dozens of rounds in seconds, like a machine-gun.

More police would be assigned as school resource officers and law enforcement could confiscate weapons from people with mental health problems.

“The reality is, we should have acted this comprehensively long ago,” said Senator Bill Galvano, the sponsor of the Senate reform package, told the Miami Herald.

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