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Politics

Senate Committee Approves Arming Teachers

February 13, 2019 - 9:00am

A Florida Senate panel tasked with shaping statewide education policies advanced a sweeping school-security package on Tuesday that would make it easier for school districts to participate in a controversial “guardian” program and would allow classroom teachers to be armed.

The Senate Education Committee approved the proposal (SPB 7030) with a 5-3 vote along party lines. The vote came after the panel agreed to amend the measure to allow law enforcement officers to serve as school safety specialists instead of requiring school district employees to fill that role. The revised bill also puts school superintendents in charge of appointing school “guardians.”

The changes came after Republicans on the committee swatted down a proposal by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, that would have barred classroom teachers from carrying concealed weapons on school grounds.

“My eight grandchildren, and their generation, they deserve to have someone ready to protect them if they are available,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. "I am asking you to understand that we want to empower those people who can do something, they are the only ones who will be there in a narrow amount of time to save those lives."

The school guardian program, part of a sweeping law created in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting last February, allows school personnel to carry concealed weapons on campus after going through extensive training.

Under current law, county sheriffs must sign off on the guardian program for school districts to implement it. The Senate measure approved Tuesday would give school districts the authority to implement the program.

While most of Tuesday’s two-hour debate focused on the contentious guardian program, the proposed package includes an overhaul of other school-safety measures.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Manny Diaz called the proposal “monumental" and said it was crafted to include most of the recommendations made in a 458-page report by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission.

The commission overwhelmingly favored expanding the “guardian” program and recommended strengthening school requirements to report crimes and other safety-related incidents, as well as sanctions for superintendents who under-report such incidents.

“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 Tuesday’s committee action.

But Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who is the CEO of the Florida Association of School Superintendents, questioned the policy of arming teachers.

"We’re at the verge of considering a monumental change in public education,” Montford said. "We are shifting the mission of public education from being one of teaching to being one of teaching and law enforcement.”

Most members of the public who addressed the committee focused on lawmakers' efforts to have more armed teachers in schools. Dozens of individuals --- including several members of the gun-control advocacy group, Moms Demand Action --- spoke against that part of the proposal.

Berman argued that the guardian program is less than a year old and that “there is no evidence that the program works.”

“We haven’t seen an instance where the guardian program has proven to be effective, so why are we expanding it?” she asked.

Diaz acknowledged there are no studies that show the guardian program has worked since it went into effect less than a year ago. But the Hialeah Republican he wants “to go with the work of the commission.”

“We had members in that commission who were totally opposed to any armed personnel and, after serving on this commission, they have come to us with this recommendation,” he said.

The proposal is still in its early drafting stages and will likely be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee to iron out funding issues  before it is ready for a full Senate vote, Diaz said.

Galvano’s office on Tuesday also said a separate piece of legislation, expected to be filed in the coming weeks, would seek to implement the commission’s recommendations about enhancing 911 emergency services’ duty to warn school districts when a threat is made.

Comments

Any bill for firearms must remove all restrictions on students carrying pepper spray and tazers.

For more than six years, Florida’s 2011 Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act prohibited physicians from querying patients about gun ownership or to ask about the presence of firearms in their homes. That state-imposed prohibition, however, was deemed an unconstitutional violation of doctors’ First Amendment rights by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a resounding 10-1 ruling in February 2017. The state never appealed the federal ruling in what became nationally known as the “docs vs. Glocks” case, but the law remained on the books as a Florida statute. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, pre-filed House Bill 6039 on Monday, a proposed measure that would remove provisions in the statute declared unconstitutional while retaining its privacy measures, including a provision that doctors cannot “discriminate” against gun owners. While HB 6039 is unlikely to be a controversial measure in itself – more of a revision to remove “dead” language from state statutes – it is among the latest in a bevy of proposed firearms-related bills awaiting legislators when they convene their 2019 session on March 5. Of the 1,649 bills pre-filed for the 60-day session as of Monday afternoon, at least 50 address firearms regulation, a reflection of shifting political dynamics in the "Gunshine State” where, historically, anything that sniffed of an infringement on gun owners’ Second Amendment rights was DOA. All that, apparently, changed with last March’s adoption of Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, a quickly-assembled $400 million response to the Parkland Valentine’s Day school shooting that included several previously inconceivable gun-control measures. SB 7026 raises the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21; requires a three-day waiting period to buy firearms; bans “bump stocks;” and gives greater authority for law enforcement to seize weapons under “red flag” laws. Despite opposition from the National Rifle Association and pressure from its powerful Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, not only did the bill pass, but Republicans who supported it suffered little to no consequences in being re-elected in November. The Valentine’s Day school shooting in Broward County that left 17 dead was the fifth mass murder by firearms in Florida within the previous two years, including the Pulse nightclub massacre that killed 49 people and wounded 53 in July 2016. The Pulse shooting is among the reasons Guillermo Smith cites for running for the state House in November 2016. Since gaining office, he has filed numerous gun control bills, including three proposed “assault weapons” bans over the past three years, including a pre-filed 2019 bill. The latest iteration of Guillermo Smith’s “assault weapons” ban, HB 455, would prohibit possession and sale of “military-style assault weapons” and “large-capacity” ammunition magazines. It was pre-filed Jan. 22 – the day before a gunman murdered five women in a Sebring bank. On Monday, Guillermo Smith did not comment on HB 6039 and acknowledged his proposed “assault weapons” ban bill has little chance of being approved by the Legislature, but said a petition drive to get a constitutional measure before voters in 2020 is gaining momentum. “I support the ballot initiative to ban assault weapons,” he wrote on Twitter. “Since state leaders refused to give my AWB proposal a hearing, Parkland/Pulse communities had no choice but to work around the Legislature rather than with them! I'll keep fighting, still! #NeverAgain #ForThe49.” There is some push-back in stemming Florida’s drift toward incorporating gun control measures typically popular in places like New York and California. Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, has filed HB 175, which would rescind the gun-control measures in last year’s SB 7026. It has been referred to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and House Judiciary Committee. But otherwise, Hill’s bill seeking to expand gunowners’ rights is an outlier amid a flurry of gun-control proposals that lawmakers will see in, at least, committee if not on chamber floors. Among them: SB 466, the Senate companion to Guillermo Smith’s “assault weapons” ban, introduced by Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Ft. Lauderdale. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary, Criminal Justice and Rules committees. SB 500, introduced by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, which would prohibit the “distributing, transporting, transferring, selling, or giving of an ‘assault weapon’ or ‘large-capacity magazine.’” A “grandfathered” ban, referred to the Senate Criminal Justice and Appropriations committees and the Criminal and Civil Justice subcommittee. SB 108, introduced by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, transferring the concealed weapons licensing program from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Law Enforcement. Referred to the Senate Judiciary; Commerce and Tourism, Infrastructure and Security committees. HB 135, introduced by Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, requiring background checks for all firearms transfers when “neither party is licensed dealer.” Referred to House Judiciary Committee and House Criminal Justice and Justice Appropriations subcommittees. HB 197, introduced by Rep. Cindy Polo, D-Miramar, which would prohibit “concealed weapon or firearm licensee from openly carrying handgun or carrying concealed weapon or firearm into any child care facility.” Referred to the House Judiciary Committee and House L Criminal Justice and Children, Families and Seniors subcommittees. SB 364, introduced by Sen. Branyon, D-Miami Gardens, which would revise “locations where a (concealed weapon) licensee is prohibited from openly carrying a handgun or carrying a concealed weapon or firearm.” Referred to the Senate Judiciary, Rules and Commerce and Tourism committees. HB 403, introduced by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, which would allow “religious institution to allow concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to carry firearm on property of institution.” Referred to House Judiciary and Education committees and House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

"Common sense" FINALLY prevails..! The universal understanding that "armed omnipresence" exists in school buildings, is a CONSTANT MAJOR deterrent,.. as well as a PRIMARY safety factor..! (After ALL these years, we're finally learning that "Gun Free Zone" signs HAVE NEVER WORKED; other than to give miscreants the impetus to create havoc...)

I guess if this becomes law and teachers are carrying guns, will it still be a gun free zone?

"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future." --Adolf Hitler, 1935.

That right, and this country (USA) is going down the same path as well-intentioned citizens are pushing to disarm the population.

Grow up Bill ! Recognize how lucky you are to live in America, and know it was America that defeated Hitler and Nazism.

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sure . . . instead of attacking the actual problem, the NRA, we choose to attach a band-aid. Eliminate these weapons of mass destruction. Teachers never trained to carry guns.

Sure . . . instead of attacking the actual problem, the NRA, we choose to attach a band-aid. Eliminate these weapons of mass destruction. Teachers never trained to carry guns.

Why NOT traln teachers to be trained to carry firearms to protect themselves (and their students in 'known' "gun free fishbowls"?!?)... (Don't YOU think teachers are smart enough..?!?)

Why do you blame the NRA? Shouldn't you be blaming the people who commit these crimes?

Common Sense prevails. It is a beautiful thing to see and we don't see it often lately with the Left barrelling in to ruin each and everything they touch..

FINALLY someone with common sense prevails!! There are more conceal carry permits in Florida, than any other state. One in twenty adults, in Florida, has a conceal carry permit. They are all around you. They are teachers, bankers, plumbers, clerks, ex law enforcement, ex soldiers, etc. Sure, the vast majority of teachers don't know anything about guns, and shouldt carry them. BUT, this is a big but, many teachers are sportsman, ex military, ex law enforcement. In my high school alone, I can think of at least 10-15 teachers that were trained with firearms, and would have gladly carried them concealed, had they legally been able to do so. The anti-gunners just spew hatred and vitriol, but the fact remains, when someone is shooting your kids up in a school, the ONLY way to stop them is for ARMED first responders to fire back!! PERIOD!! END OF DISCUSSION!! There is NO other way to stop an active shooter, than to shoot them back. We ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY need to allow the school administrators, lunch ladies, janitors, coaches, and/or teachers, to carry in schools if they are legally licensed to do so, and are willing to get the free training that the local Sheriff'f office provides for the guardian program.

ABSOLUTELY CORRECT "Dude" !!!

"High Noon" in the halls. Fools.

Worse than fools, man! Much worse than fools!

The REAL "fools" here are you "Blue", and "bobby Warner"... and we're "on" to BOTH of you !

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