Florida teachers are to bear arms

Garth A. Rose

Despite wide scale opposition, including from teachers, the Republican majority Florida legislature has approved a bill to arm the state’s public-school teachers.

During the recent Florida legislative session the Florida House voted 65-47, with firm opposition from Democratic legislators, joining the Senate to allow teachers to carry guns on school campuses.

The genesis to apply this controversial measure to Florida schools was the tragic shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland February 2018.  Those proposing and voting for the measure argued arming teachers would serve to prevent similar incidents in state schools.

Several Republican senators and representatives argued that if teachers were armed the Parkland tragedy would have been averted. “The gun man would have been gunned down before engaging in his mass killing,” argued one legislator. “It allows the good guy to stop the bad, and the  bad guy will never know when the good guy is going to be there to shoot back, argued Republican Representative Chuck Brannan from Macclenny, Florida.

Politicians are blind

“These politicians are so blind,” said former Parkland student Debbie Moore. “What we and students across the state and the nation have been seeking since the tragedy of Valentine’s Day last year is to ban guns, or at least make it more difficult for people to have access to guns. What they have done is to make a way to have more guns in schools. What sense does this make?”

Students from Marjory Stoneman and other schools made their opposition to the bill known as it travelled through the Legislature. Students held protests outside the Capitol in an effort to prevent legislators approving the arming of teachers. They argued in vain that arming teachers could create undue risks at schools and could results in accidental shootings.

According to the bill which will now advance to Governor Ron DeSantis to be signed into law, before a teacher is approved to be armed with a gun, he/she would be required to undergo 144 hours of training and must pass a psychological evaluation.

School districts  to decide

However, to the reassurance of teachers like Phyllis McKaye of Miami, despite the new law before teachers in respective school districts can be armed this must be approved by the relevant school board.

“I have never heard anything so ridiculous as passing a law to arm teachers,” said McKaye. “I would leave the profession before I touch a gun at any school. The arms I bear when I enter the school campus is chalk for the chalk board. I would never arm myself with a gun around so many students. No school board could every be irresponsible so as to approve arming its teachers.”

Broward teacher Lenworth Byfield said. “This law will only make schools a very dangerous place. Now teachers will be the first target of crazed gunmen. The gunmen entering a school will know we are armed and try to shoot us first,. A resulting shoot out would place more students in danger. People choose to become teachers to teach not to be armed vigilantes”

The school boards in South Florida are opposed to the policy, and from all indications from opinions raised during the debate over the bill they are not likely to approve arming their teachers any time soon.

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