Congrats to Florida teachers on the new guns!!! The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would allow teachers in public schools to be armed, according to NPR. The bill already passed the state Senate, meaning it will now go to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to sign it.
Guns in Florida classrooms are nothing new. Last year, the state created a program in which armed staff “guardians” in public schools, though the program excluded staff who “exclusively perform classroom duties,” i.e. teachers, according to the Miami Herald. Under the new bill, teachers will likely get to carry guns, too.
If DeSantis signs the bill as expected, districts will then get to decide individually if they want to allow their teachers to carry guns in class. It’s likely that most districts will decline, as most of them did the opportunity to take advantage of the “guardian” program. So that’s something.
“I unfortunately have to deal with parents who have lost children often because this gun violence is prevalent in my community,” State Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat who voted against the bill, told NPR affiliate WLRN. “A gun being in a classroom, however it is that they’re planning to do it... just the concept brings a different environment for those children.”
Earlier this year, a commission created in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that left 17 people dead recommended arming teachers in the state. That commission was cited by Republican legislators who supported the bill.
The commission was led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a proponent of arming teachers.
“So what are we saying to people—we’re not going to allow you to defend yourself, we’re not going to allow you to defend the kids—why? Because of some ideology that we don’t like guns? Anyone who thinks they’re going to get rid of guns is crazy,” Gualtieri told the Sun-Sentinel back in January. “It isn’t going to happen. We’ve got to do something differently and people should be able to protect themselves.”
Ryan Petty, a parent who lost a child in the Parkland shooting, told WLRN that he supports the bill.
“This allows school districts to add those classroom educators into the pool of guardian-eligible participants and allow them to go through the same process a guardian would go through,” Petty told WLRN. “School districts need the flexibility to choose as they figure out for themselves what’s the best way to protect kids in their districts.”
Broward County School Board, which controls Parkland schools, says they will not arm teachers.
“The Broward County School Board voted on a resolution against arming teachers in March 2018,” Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie told the Herald. “We do not believe arming teachers is the best way to make our schools safe.”
Once the bill is signed into law, it will create a program that requires a 144-hour training program for teachers who want to be armed. School staff in 40 of the 67 Florida school districts have already registered for the program, a spokesperson for the Florida House Speaker says, according to Reuters.
The Republican-controlled House was unwilling to budge on many details of the bill, rejecting 20 amendments proposed by Democrats, including one that called for implicit bias training for armed teachers. Discussion of that amendment in particular got heated.
“I asked for implicit bias training because we’re talking about black boys and girls that are getting murdered by police officers!” state Rep. Shevrin Jones yelled during the debate, according to the Herald. “There are bad police officers and there are bad teachers.”