In the aftermath of the massacre at a Parkland high school that took the lives of 17 students and teachers one year ago, a state Senate panel advanced a plan on Tuesday that would arm teachers at public schools in Florida.
The proposal (SPB 7030) was approved with a 5-3 vote along party lines.
The school guardian program (under the bill) came into formation in March of 2018, a month after one of the most deadly mass shootings in Florida’s history, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. With 17 dead, and 17 severely injured, the shooting caused a national uproar, as it was also the most deadly shooting at a high school in the United States.
The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting ignited a fire across the country in regards to gun laws. Many believe that the answer to the problem at hand is simply stricter gun control, essentially making the process of obtaining a gun more arduous. Others believe that there are other routes that can be taken to prevent future shootings.
After concluding that school shootings can occur in a matter of minutes, leaving law enforcement with no time to respond, many believe that the way to avoid such problems would be to place guns in the hands of classroom teachers.
“One year ago this week, we made a commitment to the students and families of Parkland that we would do everything in our power to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. So I am very pleased this critical school safety legislation gets to the heart of the commission recommendations," Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in a press release following the committee’s meeting on Tuesday.
Prior to its passing, county sheriffs were required to sign off on the program in order for it to be implemented. However, the proposed bill would grant school districts the authority to implement the program. Though certain individuals praised the bill, there are others who do not see this action in such a positive light. Opponents of the bill believe that there are other initiatives that could have taken place.
“You’re just bringing more guns into the school,” Ashley Ivey, a teacher at Florida A&M University Developmental Research School, said. “It should be mandatory that schools have metal detectors at all entrances of a school. That would stop them right there instead of bringing it (guns) into the school.”
Denai Johnson, a business major at FAMU, said the proposed bill does not address the real issue.
“If you want people to stop shooting places, then take away the guns. Don’t bring more into the equation,” Johnson said.
Questions are being raised in regard to ensuring that teachers are stable enough to use firearms.
“The emotional security of some teachers may not be as stable in comparison to others. There could very well be a case when a teacher may use the gun in ‘self defense’ when it was never that big of an issue. What would happen then?” Ivey said.
Another issue that has to be addressed is how to fund the proposed bill.
“Who’s to say that if we provide them (teachers) with guns that they know how to shoot? Now they must be trained in order to have a certain level of skill,” Johnson added. “Where would the money come from to train this? Is it coming from taxpayers?”
The proposal is still in its early drafting stages. It will be referred to the Infrastructure and Security and Appropriations committees for further review.