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Fight for stricter gun laws in Florida makes small steps forward

The gunman in the Florida school shooting had 180 rounds of ammunition remaining and could have exacted a deadlier to...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 6:11 AM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 6:11 AM

The gunman in the Florida school shooting had 180 rounds of ammunition remaining and could have exacted a deadlier toll at the school, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN.

The official said Nikolas Cruz had swastikas etched into his rifle magazines and, at one point, attempted to break a hurricane-proof window, to no avail.

The news comes as Florida lawmakers weighed a series of proposals Tuesday in response to the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The massacre prompted calls for tougher gun laws across the country, including Florida. With the last day of the state's legislative session set for March 9, the clock is ticking for lawmakers facing pressure from citizens who want to see something change.

"If we had these measures in place, I would have not had to bury Alex," said Max Schachter, whose son, Alex, was among the 17 killed.

"We need each of you to step away from politics and reach in as parents and grandparents," he told lawmakers. "Let's get something done today... you owe it to me."

The state House Appropriations Committee passed a stripped-down gun control bill, but the meatier Senate bill is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Participants had listed a permanent ban on assault-style rifles as one of their aims, but that prospect was dashed when the provision was removed from bills being considered by House and Senate subcommittees.

After the Senate subcommittee session Monday, disappointed demonstrators in orange shirts who are pushing for gun safety pointed their fingers at the lawmakers and chanted "shame" and "vote them out."

The Florida Democratic Party slammed the Monday vote, saying it was "a shame that Gov. [Rick] Scott and Tallahassee Republicans continue to do the bidding of the gun lobby, instead of listening to the chorus of voices asking for common sense gun legislation."

The Senate subcommittee rejected the proposal, which was an amendment to Senate Bill 7022. The bill, which lets law enforcement seize firearms from people under certain conditions, advanced without the amendment.

What's happening on the state level

Two more proposals advanced in Florida's Capitol on Monday. They are SB 7026, which relates to active shooter policies, including the creation of a voluntary program that provides "firearm safety and proficiency training for selected faculty and staff strategically focused on providing security" in attacks.

On Tuesday, Parkland parents were in Tallahassee to talk to lawmakers and advocate for gun safety measures.

At least five Parkland-related bills are being debated before the Florida House and Senate appropriations committees.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times, said he didn't want anyone to feel the pain he felt after losing Meadow in the school massacre.

"In Florida, we have the chance to stop it," he said. "Every state in the country is watching to see what we will do."

Randi Weisselberg, whose 15-year-old daughter survived the shooting, said through tears, "The entire world is standing up and begging you to fix this problem."

In the House committee, a proposal allowing teachers the option to arm themselves failed, as did an amendment to ban assault weapons and to require mental health background checks for those licensed to carry a weapon.

A ban on the sale and possession of bump stocks -- the devices employed by the Las Vegas concert shooter to make his semiautomatic weapons fire more like fully automatic weapons -- did pass the committee, however. That bill will head to the House floor, and the Senate committee will discuss a similar bill Tuesday afternoon.

Scott is also scheduled to be in Doral later in the day to announce a plan that will devote $500 million to school safety and mental health programs.

What's happening on the national level

In Washington, the push for new regulation and significantly strengthened background checks appeared to lose political momentum as lawmakers filtered back to the Senate and the House.

President Donald Trump is set to meet with lawmakers Wednesday, the White House said. Though sources close to the discussions said it appears he is backing away from his call to increase the age limit to 21 for some weapons, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "The President still supports raising the age limit to the age of 21 for the purchase of certain firearms."

Sanders said she expected the issue to arise during Trump's meetings with lawmakers.

What's happening on the county level

On Tuesday morning, Broward County commissioners considered several issues involving the shooting.

Commissioners voted to ask the county attorney to explore possible gun measures they could enact, to hire an independent agency to investigate the shooting and to create a task force to review the actions of agencies that responded to the shooting.

They also passed a resolution urging state and federal lawmakers to pass gun control measures, including restricting the sale of ammunition and gun modifiers, to ban assault weapons, to limit the number of firearms a person can own and institute a universal background check. They also asked state lawmakers to provide funding to tear down and rebuild classrooms, and to create a memorial, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

The building where the shooting happened will remain closed.

Robert Runcie, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, told CNN there is no date for razing the building.

"It will need to be coordinated with the State Attorney's Office, as it is a crime scene and may be used in legal proceedings," he said.

Preparing for classes

Classes are scheduled to resume at Stoneman Douglas on Wednesday. At first, the school will only have half-day sessions.

Teachers returned to campus Monday and were back Tuesday for a planning day.

History teacher Greg Pittman told CNN that teachers are stressed about being able to do the right things for their students.

"Some of the teachers had students die in the room, and we were meeting with district personnel to try to advise us, and people were just really stressed about having the right thing to say, the right thing to do," he said.

"I think the best thing that all of us as teachers can do is be ourselves, to let our students know we're there for them, that we love and care for them."

Meanwhile, three victims who were injured in the shooting remain hospitalized in fair condition, according to Broward Health Systems.

Related: These are the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting

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