(Reuters) - Gun laws in Florida, which on Wednesday experienced one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, received a failing grade and need to be fixed to save lives, according to a study on Thursday from a center to prevent firearm violence.
The findings in an annual survey from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence also said U.S. states with strong gun safety laws have fewer average gun death than states with weaker laws.
The study was completed before a 19-year-old man who had been expelled from his Parkland, Florida, high school was charged with 17 counts of murder, after authorities say he opened fire at the school on Wednesday.
Florida, which also had one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history when a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, received a failing grade in the study for its gun laws.
To raise its grade, Florida could enact universal background checks, regulate firearm dealers and repeal its “Stand Your Ground,” self-defense law that critics say allow people too much leeway to pull the trigger.
Half of all states received an F grade, according to the study.
“Year after year, our research shows that states that get serious about passing stronger gun violence prevention laws have a much better chance of reducing the number of deaths linked to
firearms,” said Robyn Thomas, the center’s executive director.
The powerful gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association, has said the U.S. government should enforce existing gun laws and new ones are not needed.
When asked to comment on the Florida shooting, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said: “We have a longstanding policy of not commenting until the facts are known.”
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has supported gun ownership rights, told a news conference on Thursday he plans to speak soon with lawmakers on keeping schools safe and finding ways to make sure people with mental illness cannot access firearms.
“The violence has to stop,” he said without mentioning any specific gun control policy proposals. His office was not immediately available for comment.
The Giffords Law Center study looked at firearms regulations and shooting death rates in all states.
It found of the 10 states with the lowest gun rate deaths, eight have some of the strongest gun laws: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and Washington.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott