Gun Control Bill Takes Center Stage in Florida Today

Alessandra Mondolfi holds a sign against AR-15 weapons as she yells, “No More” during a protest against guns on the steps of the Broward County Federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, is charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

 

Weeks after the Parkland school shooting that left more than a dozen dead, the Florida legislature appears poised to debate the issue of gun control once more.

A bill before the Florida Senate today seeks to raise the minimum age to purchase a rifle and create a longer waiting period for anyone seeking to purchase one. The bill has detractors on both sides of the political aisle, with Republicans saying it goes too far while Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, meanwhile, has been pushing the legislature to pass a bill that would add around 1,000 armed guards to Florida schools but opposes arming teachers in the classroom (which the Senate bill aims to do).

I’ve discussed at length the issue of arming teachers, which I (as a teacher) am opposed to. I am also wary of the proposal raise the age limit on rifle purchases. However, there is one thing about this bill that is good and deserves to be praised: A focus on student mental health.

The bill offers $100 million for student mental health programs as a means of combating the very type of situations that lead to the Parkland school shooting. These programs can play a major role in not only identifying problems but helping with the rehabilitation of students who struggle with depression and various mental diseases.

For as long as we have any type of gun, we will continue to have discussions on what should or should not be banned. However, we rarely talk about the issues that lead to this type of shooting. If we’re going to talk about solving school/gun violence, then we need to talk about rehabilitative solutions, not just punitive ones.

None of this is to say that it could have stopped Nicholas Cruz from going on his rampage. The system completely and totally failed him and his victims. But, it could also end up being a good thing for the next Nicholas Cruz. Maybe it would lead to a successful intervention.

While you can’t predict when or where these things come from, you can provide help as well as deterrence in order to save lives before they may be in danger. It is almost certainly a more rational response than calling for something to be banned, Constitutional rights be damned.