On a day when state lawmakers prepared to debate whether to allow teachers to carry guns at school, a Pasco County Sheriff’s deputy working as a resource officer at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel had his gun discharge from his holster as he leaned against a cafeteria wall.
No one was injured.
“We want to again make it clear that the weapon discharged directly into the wall and no students were in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook notification to the public, in which it also stated an investigation would take place.
Members of the community took issue with that assertion.
“Pure incompetence and stupidity,” Justin Zloty commented on the Sheriff’s Office post. “'No students were in danger’ is a false statement. All those students were in danger of losing their lives - they were just very fortunate."
“That’s unacceptable!” added Jessica Stafford-Walters. " Looks like someone needs some more training on weapon safety. Your mention that no students where in danger is incorrect. When a loaded gun goes off in a room of students, even if it went into a wall, that is still dangerous. Don’t try and down play this incident as if it wasn’t that dangerous. It doesn’t get any more dangerous then that."
More than that, several commenters raised concerns that, if a deputy has such an incident occur, teachers with guns could be even less safe for students.
“Not blaming officer, but, he is a trained gun user, and this happened,” wrote Howard Kilgore. “Teachers do not need to carry guns in schools!”
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence issued a report earlier in April detailing dozens of similar situations where guns in schools were “mishandled.” Opponents to Florida’s legislation (SB 7030) have used information from that document to bolster their arguments that classroom teachers should not be carrying weapons, as the legislation would permit if school boards agree.
The accidental firing of a gun into the Pasco school’s cafeteria wall fell into the line of criticism against the bill.
“So he’s a trained certified degree holding law-enforcement officer and this happened.....But people want to give teachers guns?” commented Carolyn Adams-Bystrycki.
The Florida House began debating the bill at about 3 p.m. The legislation would not require teachers to carry guns, or force districts to allow teachers to participate as state armed guardians.
Pasco school district officials have said they do not intend to allow teachers to carry guns.
Regarding Tuesday’s incident, deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said he was confident the Sheriff’s Office is “vigorously investigating what happened there and they will take necessary action.”
He did not see any evidence of a systemic problem, adding Pasco has a “great” Sheriff’s Office and will get to the bottom of the situation.
The district had a video from the cafeteria, but would not release it because it is part of an investigation.
“We’re very glad no one was injured,” district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
UPDATE: The resource officer at Weightman Middle involved in the incident this afternoon has been placed on paid administrative leave effective immediately, pending the conclusion of the investigation, according to the Sheriff’s Office.