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Florida Signs Tougher Gun Laws; NRA Sues

March 9 (UPI) -- After weighing the matter for two days, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a $400 million suite of legislative reforms to school security, mental health and gun-control measures -- a direct response to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

Scott announced his decision to sign the bill earlier Friday at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, where he was joined by victims' families and surviving students from the Parkland school. Scott signed the bill later in the day. 

The controversial legislation, which had cleared both houses of the Florida Legislature by Wednesday, includes additional gun control measures and a boost in safety resources at schools statewide.

The bill, passed by a 67-50 vote in the Senate, orders a ban on bump stocks, an increase to the minimum rifle purchasing age from 18 to 21 and a three-day waiting period on all firearm purchases.

Seventeen people were killed on Feb. 14 when a 19-year-old former student stormed into a school building spraying fire from an AR-15 assault rifle.

Florida Democrats unsuccessfully tried to add an amendment to the bill banning assault weapons.

Part of the $400 million allocated in the bill will be used to hire and train more school resource officers and mental health counselors and install extra safety equipment, like security cameras, metal detectors, bulletproof glass and automatic locking devices.

Also in the bill is funding for an optional program to allow some school personnel -- like librarians and coaches, but not teachers -- to carry firearms on campus.

The National Rifle Association pushed for Scott to reject the bill, but that lobby effort was overcome by supporters who say the legislation is a needed compromise. Hours after Scott signed the bill into law, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legislation.

The NRA's suit specifically takes issue with the ban on rifle purchases for those under 21 years old.

"The effect of Florida's aged-based ban is to impose a significant, unequal, and impermissible burden on the right to keep and bear arms of a class of millions of law-abiding 18-to-20-year-old adult citizens," the NRA said in the suit.

Democratic state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a graduate of the Parkland school, said Scott was ultimately moved to support the bill.

"When you attend more than a dozen funerals and you're dealing with grieving families, you have an all-hands-on-deck mentality," Moskowitz said. "He's not bringing the families up [to Tallahassee] just for a discussion."

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