Monday, June 18, 2018
Education

Guns at school? Florida proposal would allow armed teachers

TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would allow school employees to carry weapons on campus won the support of the House education subcommittee on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, HB 1097, principals and superintendents could designate school employees to carry concealed weapons. The employees would have to undergo extensive training, said sponsor Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota.

Steube amended the proposal shortly before Wednesday's meeting; it now requires the firearm to remain on the employee throughout the school day. Steube also expanded the proposal so that it applies to both public and private schools. "I've been getting feedback from principals all over the state about how strongly they support an initiative like this," Steube said.

But the bill has met resistance from parents, school boards and the teachers' union, which adamantly oppose the idea of guns on school property.

Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton said the law would place a "huge" liability on school systems. Plus, Blanton added: "Our teachers and principals are role models. You are going to send the wrong message to these students."

Still, most members of the subcommittee supported the proposal, including two Democrats — Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Orlando, and Rep. Carl Zimmermann, D-Palm Harbor.

The bill still has a long way to go. To advance to the floor, it must now win the support of three additional committees. And the window for committee meetings is quickly shrinking.

Steube hopes the bill continues to move. "Most counties do not have the funds to put a school resource officer in every elementary school," he said.

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