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Do Floridians support teachers carrying guns? Survey says ...

The results are mixed in a St. Leo University poll.
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

Members of the Florida House debate a bill that would arm teachers in public schools with guns. The bill passed the House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
SCOTT KEELER | Times Members of the Florida House debate a bill that would arm teachers in public schools with guns. The bill passed the House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
Published May 8, 2019

Listen to the most vocal outcry, and you might think the vast majority of Floridians strenuously oppose allowing teachers to have guns in school as part of the state’s guardian program.

Judge based on the Florida Legislature’s recent action, and you might conclude differently.

A new Saint Leo University poll suggests neither side has a clear majority, as the legislation heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis and debate turns to local school districts that will have to decide what to do.

The survey of 500 Floridians, which has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, states that 39 percent said “yes” to the question, “For safety and protective reasons, do you support arming trained teachers in public schools?”

Another 46 percent said “no” while the remaining 15 percent said they were unsure.

"It’s not a slam dunk,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist who teaches at the university.

Because district superintendents and school boards will get to decide the issue, Orlando added, 2020 school district elections could hinge on the views of the sitting decision makers and whoever challenges them.

Already, several officials have announced they would not allow teachers to carry guns, regardless of whether state law allows it. Many superintendents and board leaders issued statements in tandem shortly after the House adopted the bill, and more have followed suit.

Among those rejecting the idea are Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties in the Tampa Bay area, and several of the state’s largest school districts including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Duval and Orange counties. Combined, the many districts taking that stance educate close to 70 percent of Florida’s public school students.

Gun control groups meanwhile continue to call on DeSantis to veto the measure.

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