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Gov. Scott supports review of gun laws saying it's 'the right thing to do'

Gov. Rick Scott voiced his support for a broad review of Florida's controversial gun laws by state lawmakers Wednesday, saying the state's vital tourist economy depends on visitors being able to "feel safe" amidst an increasingly well-armed population.

"We have a legislative session coming up," Scott said during a visit to the Honeywell Aerospace plant in Largo, where he was touting his new plan to boost state manufacturing. "I think the right thing to do is go back and look at our laws."

The father of a teacher, Scott said he would particularly support looking at ways to make schools safer. But he did not specify which other areas of existing state law might deserve scrutiny, refusing to respond to questions about universal background checks for firearm sales and a ban on assault weapons.

"I want people to feel safe in our state," he said. Story here.

His remarks came in response to reporters' questions on gun control, as the nation awaited an announcement from the White House on proposals to reform federal firearm regulations. President Barack Obama called on Congress to enact bans on assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, and expand background checks for gun purchasers.

Scott's call for a review of state gun laws is was a rare — if still vague — foray into the debate over gun control in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults by a gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

In previous public remarks, he has emphasized his sympathy for the victims' families, rather than a legislative response. Scott skipped a conference call held by Vice President Joe Biden last week in which Biden solicited views on gun violence.

Florida's patchwork gun laws have subjected the state to criticism from gun-control advocates across the country. The state received a grade of "D-" in a recent review of state firearm laws by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

In addition to its hotly debated "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law, Florida does not require background checks for private sales of weapons and places no limits on the number of guns a person can buy at one time. The state has issued more than a million permits to carry a concealed handgun.

Asked later to clarify the governor's position on which state laws should be examined, his press secretary, Jackie Schutz, said she could not offer specifics.

"Generally, he wants to take the [legislative] session to look at them, like he said," Schutz said. "He wants to look at any ideas."

Schutz declined to offer details about the governor's ideas on school safety, or the possibility — advocated by the National Rifle Association — of placing armed guards in every elementary school.

"The safety of our schools — the teachers, the students, the people who work in the schools — is incredibly important," she said.

-- Peter Jamison, Tampa Bay Times