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6 years after Parkland: Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would reverse gun restrictions

Two people comfort each other as they sit and mourn at one of seventeen crosses, after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/AP
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AP
Two people comfort each other as they sit and mourn at one of seventeen crosses, after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

"That law is written the in the blood of the Parkland victims."

The shooting six years ago on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shook the entire state. Following the incident, the Florida legislature increased school security and raised the state’s legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21.

Now, Florida House Representative Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, is proposing legislation (HB 1223) that would restore permission for 18-year-olds to purchase a rifle from a licensed gun dealer.

“I make those decisions on what I feel is part of my fundamental beliefs, on issues such as constitutional rights," Payne said during last month's House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hearing.

Parents and other family members of the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School release doves at a memorial service on the sixth anniversary of the massacre in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Spencer)
Terry Spencer/AP
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AP
Parents and other family members of the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School release doves at a memorial service on the sixth anniversary of the massacre in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Spencer)

Payne’s request infuriated the family members of Parkland’s victims
Tony Montalto, the father of a forever 14-year-old, told committee members before they decide to move the bill forward, they should consider what his now deceased daughter went through.

“There is no need to backtrack on the safety advances, but sadly his piece of legislation does just that," said Montalto.

"Our current laws are working. I implore each of you to remember that law is written in the blood of the Parkland victims, including my beautiful daughter, Gina.”

Mourners hug as they leave the funeral of Alaina Petty, in Coral Springs, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Petty was a victim of Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/AP
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AP
Mourners hug as they leave the funeral of Alaina Petty, in Coral Springs, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Petty was a victim of Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

House committee members also heard from high school students like Julian Tripodi, who worries the measure would put her school at risk.

“I should not be scared every day that I’m going to go to school and get shot, let alone by someone my own age," said Tripodi.

Infringes on Second Amendment Rights?
Supporters of the bill have touted the proposal as necessary to restore Second Amendment rights. Rep. Payne, the bill's sponsor, said he sees it as a way to help Florida’s youth to get outdoors and enjoy things like hunting and target shooting.

“Restoring the rights of young adults to purchase a long gun for not only self-defense, but for sporting, is very important in my rural area," said Payne.

T. J. O'Reilly works behind the counter at the National Armory gun store and gun range, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Pompano Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/AP
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AP
T. J. O'Reilly works behind the counter at the National Armory gun store and gun range, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Pompano Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Under the provision, those 18 and older would be able to buy rifles and other long guns in Florida. This would include most shotguns and assault style rifles, such as an A-R 15, or AK-47. The bill does not say what caliber the rifle can shoot. Instead, the bill’s sponsor points out that it cannot be a handgun or be a rapid firing weapon.

Payne’s measure cleared his first committee stop last month but has since stalled. Meanwhile, Parkland advocates have found a powerful ally in the form of state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who called the measure a “non-starter” in her chamber.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.

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