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Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces plan to improve school safety

Last Updated Feb 23, 2018 12:58 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced his plan Friday to improve school safety and outline ways to keep guns away from those with mental illness in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. Scott proposed a half-billion dollars to improve these initiatives. 

"We must take care of our kids. I've spent a lot of time in Parkland meeting with families and students," Scott said. "I've been there nearly every day since the shooting. My message to them has been very simple: You are not alone, change is coming and it will come fast."

Scott says he wants to make it "virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun" and "for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun."

During his speech, Scott proposed a "violent threat restraining order" in Florida.

"This will allow a court to prohibit a violent or mentally ill person from purchasing or possessing a firearm or any other weapon when either a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer files a sworn request, and presents evidence to the court of a threat of violence involving firearms or other weapons," he said. "There would be speedy due process for the accused and any fraudulent or false statements would face criminal penalties."

Scott also intends to "strengthen gun purchase and possession restrictions for mentally ill individuals" under a mental health law known as the Baker Act.

"If a court involuntarily commits someone because they are a risk to themselves or others, they would be required to surrender all firearms and not regain their right to purchase or possess a firearm until a court hearing," he said. "We are also proposing a minimum 60-day period before individuals can ask a court to restore access to firearms."

Under Scott's plan, the state would also require all individuals purchasing firearms to be at least 21 years old and the sale and purchase of so called "bump stocks" would become illegal.

Scott said $450 million will be allocated to keep students safe at school. The governor is calling for the mandatory presence of law enforcement officers -- either sworn sheriff's deputies or police officers -- in every public school. Authorities would be required to work during all school hours. The governor suggests there should be at least one officer assigned to every 1,000 students. 

Public schools would also be required to complete mandatory active shooter training during the first week of each semester and funding would be used for installing metal detectors, bulletproof glass, steel doors and upgraded locks.

Scott said a new anonymous K-12 "see something, say something" hotline, website and mobile application is also being established.  

The school safety plan would start by the 2018-19 school year. 

According to the governor, $50 million in additional funding will be provided for mental health initiatives to expand service teams statewide.

"The goal of this plan of action is to make massive changes in protecting our schools, provide significantly more resources for mental health and do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those doing harm to themselves or others," Scott said. "Keeping guns away from dangerous people and people with mental illnesses is what we need to do. No one should have access to a gun, it's common sense."   

The money will provide access to counseling service for mental health counselors in every school. Schools will be required to provide crisis intervention training for all school personnel. 

"Every student must have the opportunity to meet one on one with a mental health professional and receive mental health counseling as needed," Scott said. 

During his speech, the governor addressed that he is an NRA member and a supporter of the Second Amendment. He also acknowledged that not everyone will support his plan.   

"We all have a difficult task in front of us," he said. "Balancing our individual rights with our obvious need for public safety. Some will say it's too much and some will say it's not enough. An open dialogue is critical." 

"It's important to consider all viewpoints," he continued. "We must get this done in the next two weeks."   

The governor's announcement follows the emergency meetings he organized with mental health experts, law enforcement officials, school administrators and students earlier this week.  

The shooting has once again started a national debate over gun laws and school safety. In response to the massacre, President Trump, along with others, have supported more people carrying guns on school grounds, including teachers. Gun-control advocates, however, have called for bans and restrictions on assault rifles.

Seventeen people were killed on Valentine's Day when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus. Fourteen others were injured in the attack. 

Cruz faces 17 charges of premeditated murder. He is being held without bond.

On Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced armed security officer Scot Peterson had a chance to stop the shooting and did not. Video at the scene showed he never went inside, Israel said. The deputy has since resigned. 

There was also a 20 minute delay in the school's video surveillance system that caused confusion for deputies who did go in to confront the shooter, making the information received on their radios inaccurate, though police say that did not endanger more lives.   

The massacre is the deadliest school shooting to occur in the U.S. in five years.