The Florida state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would permit teachers to voluntarily carry firearms on school grounds if local school boards agree to allow staffers to carry their firearms.
BREAKING: The Florida state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would permit teachers to voluntarily carry firearms on school grounds if local school boards agree to allow staffers to carry their firearms.
— Breaking News (@of_BreakingNews) April 23, 2019
Per MiamiHerald, more than a year after last year’s Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland that shocked the state and blurred party lines in the state Capitol, the Florida Senate passed a follow-up bill that has become increasingly partisan because of its expansion of a program that would allow classroom teachers to be armed.
It succeeded on a 22-17 vote. Although the vote count isn’t far off from last year’s 20-18 vote, Tuesday’s vote fell much more along party lines. Only one senator, Sen. Anitere Flores, a Republican from Miami, kept it from being a complete party-line passage when she voted against the bill with all the Democrats.
The 54-page proposal, Senate Bill 7030, cleared the floor with its most contentious piece intact: an expansion of the “Guardian” program created last year that would allow teachers to carry guns after undergoing screening and training by a sheriff’s office.
Under the current law, educators who “exclusively perform classroom duties” are not eligible to participate in the program — a carve-out that was added as a compromise to Democrats and then-Gov. Rick Scott, who opposed allowing teachers to have guns on campus.
The Florida state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would permit teachers to carry firearms on school grounds if local school boards agree to allow staffers to carry their firearms.
The Senate voted 22-17, mostly along party lines, to approve the bill, setting up a vote in the state House.
Should the legislation be signed into law, local school boards and charter school governing boards would still have to vote on if they would authorize teachers to be armed on their individual campuses.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has expressed an openness to allowing teachers to bring firearms to schools.
Teachers who volunteer to bring guns to schools would have to undergo a psychological test and at least 144 hours of training, the results of which have to be approved by law enforcement.
The prospect of arming teachers has divided Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee and Washington since the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead.
Republicans have said that having trained, armed teachers could prevent similar shootings in the future, while Democrats have pushed for more gun control measures.
“I must err on the side of saving a kid,” state Sen. Ed Hooper (R) told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Democrats have said having more guns on campuses will not make them safer and that schools should focus their resources on other priorities, such as guidance counselors and mental health services.
“What we are telling our teachers is if you want protection for you and your children then you do it yourself,” said state Sen. Bill Montford (D).
The legislation includes other school safety provisions, including standardizing a risk assessment process for at-risk students and proposing new guidelines on school-based mental health.
The legislation is the product of a state commission that was formed in the Parkland shooting’s aftermath and charged with finding ways to prevent similar attacks moving forward.