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Florida Legislature debates school safety, gun measures

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By BRENDAN FARRINGTON and GARY FINEOUT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) β€” The Florida Senate has agreed to advance a bill that would increase school safety and restrict gun purchases following a rare weekend session in the wake of last month's shooting at a high school that killed 17 people.

Legislators debated dozens of amendments to the 100-page bill Saturday before approving the measure for a Monday vote.

School Shooting-Florida US Senate
FILE- In this Feb. 21, 2018 file photo, Sen. Bill Nelson speaks during a CNN town hall meeting in Sunrise, Fla. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has put guns at the forefront, for now, in the U.S. Senate campaign in Florida. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is expected to mount a campaign to oust incumbent Democrat U.S. Bill Nelson from his Senate seat. CNN host Jake Tapper, left, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) are seen in the background. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The Republican-controlled Senate rejected Democratic proposals to ban assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. Also rejected was a Democratic proposal to strip language from the bill that would create a program to arm teachers who have gone through law-enforcement training if school districts choose to take part in the so-called marshal plan.

Nearly three weeks after the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, people across the country are still talking about the tragedy and how the victims touched the lives of people far and wide.

The shooting was mentioned at the Oscars Sunday night, and artists and activists paid tribute to the people killed. Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel, in his remarks about acceptance speeches, said the winners should speak with passion and that they "have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things - equal rights and equal treatment. If you want to encourage others to join the amazing students at Parkland at their march on the 24th."

The Stoneman Douglas students are organizing a March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24.

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On Saturday evening, the parents and sister of victim Joaquin Oliver received a basketball jersey from Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade.

Having learned that Oliver was buried in one of his replica jerseys, Wade hastened the processing of a version of the jersey with new colors that is on backorder until July 1 for the general public, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. He then met with Oliver's parents and sister at Saturday's game, after Wade's mother and sister previously had spent time with the family. Included in the memorial offering were a specially designed pair of sneakers from Wade's footwear line that featured Joaquin's name and the Stoneman Douglas logo.

But the most focus regarding the shooting and its aftermath came in the Florida Legislature during a rare weekend session that often turned into a debate on gun control and arming teachers.

Senators were divided on 100-page bill, and not just on party lines. While crafted by Republicans, some GOP senators still opposed it because they don't agree with raising the minimum age to guy a rifle from 18 to 21 or requiring a waiting period to buy the weapons.

Democrats believe the legislation doesn't go far enough in some ways and too far in others. And while some oppose the bill, others believe it's at least a first step toward gun safety.

Democrats want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Many also oppose arming teachers. The bill also includes provisions to boost school security, establish new mental health programs in schools, and improve communication between schools, law enforcement and state agencies.

But much of the debate Saturday revolved around gun control and whether people should have a right to own an assault rifle.

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Lawmakers are scrambling to take some kind of action before the annual session ends Friday. The House has yet to take up its version of the bill.

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