Students who survived the Florida school shooting began a journey Tuesday to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to prevent another massacre, but within hours the gun-friendly Legislature had effectively halted any possibility of banning assault rifles like the one used in the attack.
While students traveled, a Democratic representative asked for a procedural move at the Statehouse that would have allowed the Republican-controlled House to consider a ban on large-capacity magazines and assault rifles such as the AR-15 that was wielded by the suspect, Nickolas Cruz.
The bill had been assigned to three committees but was not scheduled for a hearing. The House quickly nixed the Democratic motion. The vote broke down along party lines, and Republicans criticized Democrats for forcing the vote.
Because the committees will not meet again before the legislative session ends March 9, the move essentially extinguishes hope that lawmakers would vote on any sweeping measures to restrict assault rifles, although other proposals could still be considered.
Florida has a reputation for expanding—and not restricting—gun rights. Senate President Joe Negron sponsored a 2011 bill that Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law that banned cities and counties from regulating gun and ammunition sales.
The Senate is considering boosting spending on mental health programs for schools and giving law-enforcement greater power to involuntarily hold someone considered a danger to themselves. The chamber will also look at a proposal to deputize a teacher or someone else at school so they are authorized to have a gun.
Parkland students plan to meet Wednesday with top legislative leaders and hold a rally to put pressure on the Legislature.