Florida Legislature passes bill to combat opioid epidemic

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The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act - passed three weeks after a mass shooting at the school killed 17 people - raises the minimum legal age for buying any guns in Florida from 18 to 21 and would allow some teachers and other staff in the Florida school system to be armed after training.

The bill triggered an angry response from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun-owners' group that spends millions in lobbying and donations to U.S. lawmakers.

"We had an incredible session, but probably the most important thing we did this year is we listened to the families of Parkland", said Gov. Rick Scott, who joined legislative leaders at an end-of-session ceremony. Two fathers whose daughters were among the 14 students slain on Valentine's Day watched from the House gallery as the chamber debated the measure Wednesday.

Only a few hours after the Governor of Florida signed a new law which raised the purchase age for firearms from 18 to 21 years old, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit against the plan, telling a federal court that the law "totally eviscerates" the Second Amendment rights of people between the ages of 18 and 21.

At the signing, Scott was flanked by family members of the victims of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The $67 million provision is named after the coach who shielded students with his own body and died in last month's shooting.

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"To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you made your voices heard", Scott said.

"Females between the ages of 18 and 21 pose a relatively slight risk of perpetrating a school shooting. or, for that matter, a violent crime of any kind", says the lawsuit.

The bill does not ban the sale of the AR-15 assault rifle - the weapon used by Nikolas Cruz - one of activists' key demands.

Scott signed the bill later in the day.

But it went too far for some Republican lawmakers opposing stricter measures on gun ownership.

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The White House also supports a second bill that would create a federal grant program to train students, teachers and school officials how to identify signs of potential violence and intervene early.

"The Leon Classroom Teachers Association does not want anyone in the schools with a weapon who is not a sworn law enforcement officer", said Scott Mazur, LCTA President. "Please veto the funding and language in the budget that provides for arming school personnel".

At Granite schools, principles and teachers will encourage students who take part in the demonstrations to stay on campus, either on sports fields or other school areas, to make sure students stay safe, said district spokesman Ben Horsley.

The bill has been an important political consideration for Scott, who is facing term limits as governor and is widely expected to challenge Florida's Democratic US senator, Bill Nelson, in November's midterm election.

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