Tallahassee, FL – The state commission that has been investigating the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School voted 13-1 to recommend the arming of teachers in Florida schools.
The majority of the members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is made up of law enforcement, education and mental health professionals, a legislator, and the fathers of two students murdered on Valentine’s Day, voted to tell the state legislature to pass a law that would permit certain teachers to be armed.
The commission’s chairman, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, was a strong advocate of arming teachers, FOX News reported.
Sheriff Gualtieri explained that school shootings happen quickly and it’s not enough to have one or two school resource officers with guns.
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, he said.
Sheriff Gualtieri said 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,” the sheriff said. “One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.”
The single dissenting vote was cast by the father of a victim.
Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex died in Building 1200 on Feb. 14, said the state should hire more police officers for schools and allow non-teaching staff to be armed, according to FOX News.
“We do need more good guys with a gun on campus — nobody understands that and wishes we had more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas than myself,” Schachter said.
But he worried that arming teachers “creates a host of problems.”
Sheriff Gualtieri’s plan calls for teachers to volunteer to participate in a “guardian” program, WLRN reported.
All participants would undergo extensive training. And teachers would only be allowed to use their weapons during an active-shooter event.
“I, along with the rest of the commissioners who watched all of the surveillance videos that we have, cannot unsee the things that we’ve seen,” Florida State Senator Lauren Book (D-Broward County) explained the commission’s decision. “And [I] cannot argue [with the idea] that we need to have more good guys with a gun on school campuses.”
The other parent on the commission, Ryan Petty, said that initially he’d agreed with Schachter that it was a bad idea to arm the teachers. But he said it was the teachers who changed his mind, according to WLRN.
“One of the more compelling things to me is that those teachers were defenseless sitting in those classrooms, along with those students, at the wrong end of a semiautomatic rifle,” Petty said. “And to not give them the opportunity to protect themselves, I think, is a disservice to the teachers.”
The commission also identified a number of other things that could be done right away to improve school security, including locking doors and gates on campus, identifying safe corners for students to hide in, and providing materials teachers could use to cover windows and doors to block a shooter’s view into a classroom, WTSP reported.
The draft report is more than 400 pages long and remains a work in progress. The final version is due to the governor by the first of 2019.