Florida State Senate Votes on Arming School Teachers
Florida control lobbyists were not happy this week after a majority of the state senate approved a bill to better protect schoolchildren and teachers.
The senate voted 22-17 to approve the bill, which allows teachers to carry firearms at school to protect students, if the school board in their district approves.
The senate is the first hurdle for this bill, #SB7030, which comes in response to deadly school shootings in the state and across the nation.
According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, the bill is likely to receive a warm reception in the House as well. Governor Ron DeSantis has also already shown signs of willingness to approve this measure as well.
What is the “Arming Teachers” Bill About?
This freshly passed bill expands legislation that is already in place in Florida; some members of school staff are already permitted to carry guns on campus.
The bill was introduced after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland; that shooting claimed 17 lives.
Despite progressive headlines, the bill does not simply allow schools to pass out firearms freely to any teacher who wants them.
Teachers would have to volunteer, become licensed and complete at least 144 hours of training; they would also have to undergo psychological testing for additional safety.
A 22-17 Split Vote
#SB7030 passed the senate with a strong lead – 22 to 17 was the final vote; this was mostly along party lines, with Republicans voting for additional protection and Democrats voting against this additional measure of safety.
A recent commission on the shooting also concluded that the presence of armed staff and teachers would have saved lives in the Parkland Shooting. Republican Senator Ed Hooper, from Clearwater, voted for the bill, stating that some lives could have been saved in Parkland if teachers had been armed.
He explained his support and vote simply and directly “I must err on the side of saving a kid.”
Republicans in Florida and across the nation, including President Donald Trump have come out in support of the measure, saying that arming teachers will better protect students and save lives.
Opposition from Gun Control Activists
Not surprisingly vote led to outrage on social media from both individuals and gun control activist groups, who spoke out in a variety of ways across multiple channels:
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence tweeted: “#SB7030 passes the Senate by a vote of 22-17 despite opposition from students, parents, and teachers. Thank you to the Senators who voted against the bill.”
Senator Bill Montford, a Democrat from Tallahassee, stated that some teachers had criticized the bill because it placed more responsibility on them. Montford voted against the measure.
Parkland shooting survivor Alfonso Calderon was interviewed on CNN by Don Lemon, he had this to say about the bill: “I don’t know if Donald Trump has ever been to a public high school, but as far as I’m aware, teachers are meant to be educators,” Calderon said.
“They’re meant to teach young minds how to work in the real world. They are not meant to know how to carry AR-15s. They are not meant to know how to put on Kevlar vests for the other students or themselves.”
Ironically, anything described in the teen’s statement would likely have saved lives during the Parkland shooting. Teachers with guns and the use of Kevlar vests would have offered more protection and potentially stopped the shooter before he could do so much harm.
What’s Next When it Comes to Arming Teachers in Florida?
To become law, the bill would also have to pass the House, which it is likely to do; it would then go to the governor, who has already signaled his support and willingness to sign this protective measure into state law. Once approved, the power to allow properly trained and vetted Florida teachers to protect students with firearms would be up to individual school districts.
The bill is not mandatory and does not require teachers to train, handle weapons or take any action unless they volunteer to be trained to do so.
Once training is complete, parents in a variety of Florida school districts will be able to sleep a little better at night, knowing additional safety measures are in place.