Florida Lawmakers Pass Bill to Arm More School Teachers
A Florida school “guardian” program will allow any teacher to volunteer to carry a weapon if their local school district approves.
More teachers in Florida could carry guns in school under a bill that passed on Wednesday by state lawmakers.
In the latest response to last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Republican-led House voted 65-47 to send the bill to Governor Rod DeSantis, who is expected to sign it, reports the AP.
A school “guardian” program will allow any teacher to volunteer to carry a weapon if their local school district approves.
“It allows good guys to stop the bad. The bad guys will never know when the good guys are there to shoot back,” said Republican Representative Chuck Brannan, also a retired law enforcement officer. “The guardian is the last line of defense. He or she will be there when a police officer is not.”
To join the program and carry a gun, teachers would have to undergo police-style training, a psychiatric evaluation and drug screening.
A separate law passed last year immediately following the Parkland shooting only allowed teachers who have another role, such as a sports coach, to be eligible to carry weapons on campus.
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony wrote a letter to the local school board and superintendent to say that he opposes arming school teachers.
“This program would place students, teachers and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our children safe and making school places where students feel they belong,” he wrote. “Teachers enter that profession to educate children, not to serve as school security.”
Most Democrats voted against the bill, saying that having more weapons in schools puts children at risk, raises the risk of mistaken shootings and could lead to more violence against African American students because of biases.
“We see accidents happen every day,” said Democratic Representative Susan Valdes. “This is not the answer. Don’t put more guns in our school.”
The bill was also opposed by teachers unions. Some school boards have voted against joining the guardian program, preferring to leave security to trained police officers.
The bill’s sponsor, however, Republican Representative Jennifer Sullivan said it is the best way to protect students from active shooters. She added that the program is strictly voluntary for teachers to become armed guardians.
“If a teacher does not want to be a guardian, we don’t require them to. This bill does not require districts to arm teachers,” said Sullivan.