Keeping children safe on school grounds should be a priority for educators, law enforcement and the entire community. But a plan before the Legislature to arm school employees and volunteers is not the answer. Adding more guns to schools gives an illusion of safety while exponentially increasing the chance of accidents. There are better ways to improve safety than to arm more people in buildings where there should be no firearms at all.
It's the second time since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that Florida lawmakers have proposed allowing school principals or superintendents the discretion to grant certain employees or volunteers the right to carry guns on campus or in district administration offices.
Under SB 968, those allowed to carry guns would have to be current or former members of the military, National Guard members or reservists with no disciplinary actions related to firearms in their files. Current or former law enforcement officers with clean personnel records would also be eligible. The designees would have to attend a 40-hour school safety program and complete active shooter and firearm training. A House version of the bill, HB 968, contains much of the same language, though it expands the list of those who could be granted permission to carry guns on campus to any school district employee or volunteer who has passed a background screening after they completed training and have a valid concealed carry permit. Do we really want to arm English teachers?
The training required in the bills does not come close to approaching that required of active duty law enforcement officers. Adding more firearms inside schools would only increase the odds that tense situations could escalate into gunfire or accidents — such as a misplaced or dislodged weapon — and could turn deadly. It does not take much imagination for anyone who has recently visited a school campus to envision what could go wrong.
Yet House and Senate committees approved versions of their bills last week even as those closest to the risk — parent groups, school boards and the statewide teachers union — all voiced opposition. Seeking to protect schools is a shared desire, and some of the new security measures implemented by many school districts since Sandy Hook have been wise. But just putting more guns on campus in the hands of employees who have other responsibilities, or volunteers who may not have worked with children or have law enforcement training, would create more risk, not less. It's time legislators stood for common sense instead of for the National Rifle Association.