Perhaps the bill that drew the most local and national headlines during Florida’s legislative session was Senate Bill 7030, which allows classroom teachers to be armed on campus. The bill was a follow-up to last year’s law passed in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, which first created the “Guardian program” to allow school staff to be armed but excluded teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties" from being eligible.
This year’s bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the coming days, undid that exception. Anyone volunteering to participate in the program must undergo screening and training by law enforcement.
The bill was largely passed along party lines. However, a handful of Republicans broke ranks to also vote against the bill along with the Democrats.
In the House, five GOP state representatives voted “no:" Reps. Mike Beltran of Lithia, Vance Aloupis of Miami, Chip LaMarca of Fort Lauderdale, Mike Caruso of Delray Beach and David Smith of Winter Springs.
All five are freshmen, meaning they were just elected to the Legislature last year. Several said they had not coordinated their vote, but instead had decided on their own they would not support the bill.
Beltran said his vote was the result of several months’ worth of research as well as “overwhelming opposition” from his constituents.
“I feel that firearms in our schools belong in the hands of trained law enforcement professionals. I am prepared to allocate the resources necessary to protect each school,” he wrote in a statement. “Community sentiment strongly aligned with my own analysis and so the answer was clear.”
Similarly, Aloupis said his vote was influenced by his community’s reaction to the idea.
“School safety isn’t a partisan issue,” he said. “There’s much good that the bill will do, especially in the area of data sharing. However, many parents and other stakeholders in my community urged me to vote ‘no’ for reasons specific to the Guardian program — and it’s my responsibility to make sure that those voices are heard in Tallahassee.”
In addition to the contentious piece involving teachers carrying guns, the bill also adds a slew of other school safety measures, such as more specific guidelines for how schools should offer mental health services to students as well as creates a standardized, statewide “threat assessment” tool for schools to keep records of students they feel may pose a “behavioral threat” to themselves or others.
LaMarca said the fact that his district is in Broward County played a role.
“Having heard from hundreds of families, parents, students, school district members, law enforcement officers, as well as members of the (Marjory Stoneman Douglas) Public Safety Commission ... I voted NO,” he wrote. “My geographic location and personal relationships with many of the families and elected officials made this a very personal issue for me.”
In the Senate, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said during a committee meeting in mid-April that she would not be supporting the bill in an emotional speech, so her “no” vote was expected.
When it comes to putting more guns in schools, "there’s more things that can go wrong than can go right in that situation,” she said at the time. “I really hope that I’m wrong. I hope we’re all wrong and it will be a lot more good that comes from this than bad, but I firmly believe our kids’ lives should be protected by more than just hope.”
To see how other state senators voted on the bill, click here.
To view the votes in the state House, click here.