Tallahassee, FL – The Florida Legislature has passed a bill that would allow Florida teachers to carry firearms in schools.
The measure passed out of the Florida House of Representatives with a vote of 65-47 on Wednesday, and was forwarded to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the proposal into law, the Associated Press reported.
The bill is an expansion of the “guardian” program, and will allow teachers who want to carry guns to do so with school district approval.
Teachers wanting to participate will also be required to successfully complete law enforcement-style training, drug screening, and a psychiatric evaluation.
Altogether, they will need to undergo a minimum of 142 hours of training, which includes eight hours of diversity training, USA Today reported.
The bill also opens up more funding for mental health counseling and school security.
Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan, a retired law enforcement officer, said that the bill “allows the good guys to stop the bad,” according to the Associated Press.
“The bad guys will never know when the good guys are there to shoot back,” Brannan said. “The guardian is the last line of defense. He or she will be there when a police officer is not.”
The bill was created in the wake of the Feb. 14, 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, during which 20-year-old Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 students and faculty, and wounded 17 more.
In December, the state commission tasked with investigating the school shooting voted 13-1 to recommend arming teachers.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, said that school shootings happen quickly, and it’s not enough to have one or two school resource officers with guns, FOX News reported.
Usually a school shooter murders the most people in the first few minutes so there isn’t time for police to stop them, no matter whether they’re on or off campus.
Putting a police officer in every classroom to protect students would not be feasible, but arming teachers who are willing and have passed background checks could be reasonably accomplished, Sheriff Gualtieri said.
According to the sheriff, the Parkland gunman reloaded his AR-15 five times, which would have given armed faculty members five opportunities to shoot and kill him.
“We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves,” he said. “One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.”
Despite support from the commission, which was made up of law enforcement, education and mental health professionals, a legislator, and the fathers of two students murdered in the attack, newly-appointed Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony disagreed with the passage of the bill.
Sheriff Tony was appointed to his position by the governor after disgraced former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was removed from office in the wake of the school shooting.
“This program would place students, teachers, and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our children safe and making schools places where students feel they belong,” Sheriff Tony wrote in a letter to the local school board and the district superintendent, according to the Associated Press. “Teachers enter that profession to educate children, not to serve as school security.”
Most Democrats opposed the bill, and alleged that having armed teachers inside schools would place kids at risk. Some claimed that African American students would be at even greater risk because of alleged inherent biases.
Many school boards have already voted against joining the guardian program, and teachers’ unions also strongly opposed the legislation.
Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who sponsored the bill, said that no one will force teachers carry a weapon to protect themselves and their students.
“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,” Sullivan said.