1. Florida Politics

House panel approves bill allowing armed teachers

Published Mar. 12, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Is the third time a charm for a proposal that would allow Florida teachers to pack heat?

Some members of the state House of Representatives hope so.

The controversial bill, which won the support of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee on Wednesday, is likely to move quickly in the lower chamber.

But it may struggle to win votes in the more moderate Senate — due largely to opposition from the teachers union and PTA.

The proposal (HB 19) would let school superintendents designate employees or volunteers to carry concealed weapons on school property.

Any designated individuals would have to have served in the military or law enforcement, and undergo special training from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

They would also need to hold concealed-weapons permits.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says the measure would keep students and teachers safe in a school shooting.

"Most of our elementary schools do not have a school resource officer or anyone there that can respond to any type of armed threat," Steube said. "So they are at the whim of a shooter until a law enforcement officer gets there."

Steube first pitched the bill in 2013, shortly after a shooter took the lives of 20 students and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

It passed on the House Floor in 2014, but stalled in the Senate.

The latest version of the bill won the support of the Florida Sheriff's Association on Wednesday.

Republican and Democratic members of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee spoke in support of the proposal, too.

"It would allow for a tremendous peace of mind for parents to know that there is somebody at the school site who is trained and can actually be there to respond if, God forbid, one of these events happened," said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Only one member of the panel voted "no."

Rep. Joe Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, said he would prefer to see a trained police officer assigned to every school in Florida.

"I don't think an American Sniper approach is the way to protect our kids," Geller said.

Lawmakers are also considering a proposal that would allow permitted individuals to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at Follow @kmcgrory.