Florida Republicans Face Mounting Pressure to Act on Gun Control

TALLAHASSEE — Seven days after the killing of 17 students and school staff members in Florida, Republican state leaders are facing pressure unlike any they have experienced before to pass legislation addressing gun violence.

On Wednesday, swarms of student protesters carrying signs and boxes of petitions stormed the Florida Capitol, pleading with lawmakers to pass tougher gun control in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Broward County school last week.

On one floor, they crowded the doorway of the office of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and an ardent supporter of gun rights, shouting, “Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!” On an upper floor, they gathered outside the office of the powerful speaker of the Florida House, Richard Corcoran. “Face us down! Face us down! Face us down!”

And on the House floor, Alondra Gittelson, who survived the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confronted Mr. Corcoran, a Republican, demanding to know why “such a destructive gun” — the AR-15 rifle — is widely accessible.

“How is an individual in society able to acquire such a gun?” Ms. Gittelson, 16, asked Mr. Corcoran.

Mr. Corcoran replied that he saw the rifle as a legitimate hunting weapon and did not believe a ban would help matters. “I’ll just be honest with you,” he said. “Me, personally — I don’t believe that’s the solution.”

With about two weeks left in the legislative session, Republicans led by Mr. Scott have concluded that it would be politically catastrophic if they failed to do something to address the growing outcry. But they appear likely to pursue legislation narrower than what students are demanding, avoiding a ban on assault weapons.

In the Florida House and Senate, lawmakers said they were involved in bipartisan efforts to craft gun-related legislative proposals that could be introduced Friday or earlier.

State Senator Bill Galvano, a Republican, said in an interview that the Senate proposal would likely involve raising the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles to 21 from 18; introducing a three-day waiting period to purchase such guns; banning “bump stocks,” an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster; and expanding the power of law enforcement to restrict the actions of mentally ill people under Florida’s Baker Act.

“Nothing about this is par for the course,” Mr. Galvano said. “We’ve had one too many horrific incidents in this country and really around the world. And to have this tragedy occur here in the State of Florida has in some ways been very sobering.”