CLEARWATER —Days after Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that enables teachers to carry firearms in classrooms and provides funding for more armed school resource officers, the Pinellas County School Board took a stance that only trained law enforcement should carry on campuses.
At the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Breakfast Thursday, local lawmakers had their own takes on guns in classrooms following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland that killed 17.
Here's what your lawmakers said when asked by moderator and Times Political Editor Adam Smith: "would you like to see more personnel in the Pinellas School System armed?"
•Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg: "I have never thought bringing guns to a gun fight will solve the problem… in fact, we just heard in the last few days about accidental shootings in classrooms. I just don't think that's appropriate. But those students that stood up and came to Tallahassee accomplished more in two weeks than we've been able to do in 10 years."
•Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor: "The best deterrent for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun … this is me talking as a parent, not as a legislator, me as a parent. You gave me the option to have somebody who's trained to operate a firearm, to give hundreds of hours of training to another individual so they can properly and safely do it, that's another person who stands at breach, and God forbid our children are at risk, I would do that."
•Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg: "Even the best response times for school shootings is generally between five to seven minutes, and that's when all of the carnage is done… literally the only (solution) is to have somebody there already that's armed… this is not some harebrained idea. This is what Israel does to make sure their schools are safe."
•Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole: "These gun-free zones … seem to be targets of people with guns. If a teacher or a non-instructional personnel that is voluntarily trained and could be that one person there, that good person there, that God forbid should happen, could say 'look, everybody just take cover and I can protect you.' I'm for that."
•Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater: "I think it's important to remember we're not talking about the English teacher who's 65 years old carrying a weapon. This is the assistant principal, administrator, a coach, etc … I think somebody who goes through the hundreds of hours of training, who has the experience, and it's also important to point out it's purely optional. I think for the five to seven minutes that shootings go on, it's very important to have somebody there to meet force with force."
•Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island: "I would prefer the governor's plan to have police in the schools, but I supported the bill … leaving it to a choice to the school district made it much more palatable for me to vote for it." She explained she supported the bill because of the mental health provisions it included to allow law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from someone who has been involuntarily evaluated by a mental health professional under the Baker Act.
•Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa: "We can live in this Utopian dream that evil doesn't exist and people don't want to harm or take lives. I don't see that as an option. Two, we can give the school districts the option to participate in the marshal program or the guardian program. Three, we can tell local governments solve it yourself or wait in silent immunity … What have we heard time and time again? 'That's not the right answer, we shouldn't' be doing that.' Presumably we should just incentive local government to say if you want to have gun free zones and mass shootings, then don't come running to the state for a cap on sovereign immunity. Fix it. If you don't believe fixing it involves (school resource officers) or involves participating in the guardian program, than go fix it and we'll support you."
•Rep. Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg: "I don't believe in arming our school teachers and librarians and custodians. It's something from a Steven Seagal movie, librarians are going to dive over the counter and kill everybody and save the day … the Black Caucus took a stand against arming school personnel and school teachers. We stuck to that. All the way down to the one black Republican on the floor. In the Florida House, our floor is a gun-free zone. We never had a mass shooting on that floor because at the front door we got metal detectors, we got eight or nine or 10 armed guards… we should practice what we preach. This is what keeps us safe in a gun free zone."
Note: Two lawmakers said the new law requires "hundreds" of hours of training. The law calls for "132 hours of comprehensive firearms safety and proficiency training."