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Florida shooting: State lawmakers pass gun control measures

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Florida lawmakers have voted to enact new gun control measures, weeks after one of the worst school shootings in US history took place in the state.

The Senate narrowly passed a bill that would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 and require a three-day waiting period for most weapons.

Senators voted 20-18 in favour, after an amendment removed a provision to arm classroom teachers.

The law now requires approval from the House of Representatives and governor.

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Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Florida city of Parkland on 14 February by former student Nikolas Cruz.

Many of the surviving students had called on politicians do more than give “thoughts and prayers” and protested for greater gun control.

Emotional testimony

The national minimum age to buy a handgun is already 21, with a three-day waiting period. However, a person can be as young as 18 to buy a rifle in Florida, with no waiting period.

Mr Cruz was 18 years old when he purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he turned on students and school staff, authorities said according to Reuters.

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Senators listened to three hours of often emotional testimony before voting.

“Do I think this bill goes far enough? No! No, I don’t!” said a tearful democratic senator according to TIME. She had hoped for a ban on assault weapons, but the Senate had already rejected this at the weekend.

Armed ‘marshals’ in schools

Under the bill, classroom teachers have been exempted from a new voluntary armed “marshals” programme for schools in Florida.

The programme – named after Aaron Feis, a coach who died in the Parkland shooting – will allow school staff who do not teach in classrooms to be armed, subject to school district approval and specialist training.

The exemption of classroom teachers was deemed necessary to get the bill passed. Republican Governor Rick Scott – who has the final say on the bill – has opposed arming teachers.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parents and students had also decried the proposal.

A ban on the sale or possession of bump fire stocks – a piece of metal or plastic that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire rounds of bullets in seconds, much like a machine gun – was also approved.

The new bill represents a break with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has resisted proposals to raise age limits or impose new waiting limits.

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In the past few weeks, a number of companies have cut ties with the gun rights lobby by ending discounts for NRA members.

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