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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.


  1. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down.
  2. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  3. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus.
  4. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  5. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms.
  6. Chicken and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce were offered to students to test during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste-testing, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at Pinellas Technical College. Twenty-eight new food items were tested and rated.  Some will be added to next year's school menus.
  7. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  8. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  9. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  10. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020.
  11. Incoming Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis (center), School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) and the other board members pose as Davis signs his contract with the district on Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved the contract beforehand.
  12. Jarvis Delon West was arrested on child neglect charges after he didn't report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police.