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  1. Opinion

Column: I'm a veteran who respects the Second Amendment and I oppose arming teachers.

The Florida Capitol. SCOTT KEELER | Times
Published Apr. 2

I'm one of the few, if not only, members of the Florida House to have been in a gunfight. I understand the chaos, adrenaline and confusion inherent in an armed confrontation.

When I served a tour of duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I witnessed even the most highly trained soldiers — men and women with years of firearm training and conditioning — make mistakes with their weapons they were trained to overcome.

This is why I am deeply troubled by proposed legislation to allow Florida teachers to carry firearms in their classrooms. Such a policy would expect teachers with sparse training to make rapid, tactical, and mortal decisions in a classroom full of children.

Walking into a line of fire requires intense, immersive training. Fewer than 150 hours' worth of preparation barely qualifies a civilian for spending unsupervised time at a firing range, let alone engaging an armed assailant.

As a U.S. Navy veteran who has fought to protect and defend freedom, including the right to bear arms, I oppose legislation that puts guns into teachers' hands.

The call to arm teachers is not one that's coming from inside the classroom. Teachers, students, and veterans, among others, have all sounded the alarm on this dangerous proposal.

There is little evidence to support the claim that armed teachers will lead to greater school security. It is just as likely that armed teachers will put our kids and first responders at an enormous risk for gun-related accidents or deaths. Frankly, the stakes are far too high to go forward with this kind of experiment when so little data exists.

The best way to ensure the safety of our students is to enact legislation that encourages safe, responsible gun ownership, invests in mental health resources, and improves "red flag" laws that allow family members to intervene on behalf of loved ones who are a threat to themselves and others.

In the Navy (and in the Army unit I deployed with in Iraq) we were taught to respect and handle our weapons safely. We were also taught to address the root cause of a problem — arming our teachers does the exact opposite.

It's time we got to the root of the problem, not add to it.

Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Democrat, represents Florida House District 59 in Hillsborough County, including parts of Brandon, Valrico, Bloomingdale, Riverview, Progress Village and Palm River-Clair Mel.

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