The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday approved HB 7093 (School Safety Bill), which will expand opportunities for teachers to become armed school guardians. The bill will be passed on to Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it.
The School Safety Bill will loosen the requirements of the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which was enacted in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Under the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, only teachers who had a second role at the school, like athletic coach, could apply to be a school guardian. Such school guardians would be allowed to carry guns on campus as a last line of defense.
The School Safety Bill will let any teacher be a part of the program. No teacher will be required to participate in the program.
On Feb. 14, 2018, a former student armed with a semiautomatic rifle opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.
President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association have argued an armed teacher could provide the best defense against a shooter bent on mass murder.
Opponents questioned whether the solution to gun violence should be the presence of even more guns and warned of the danger of a teacher misfiring during a crisis or police mistaking an armed teacher for the assailant.
Passage marks a victory for gun-rights advocates, who were on the defensive a year ago when Parkland students inspired nationwide protests in favor of gun control.
After the Parkland shooting, Florida lawmakers rushed through legislation that required schools to place at least one armed staff member or law-enforcement officer at each campus.
The law also imposed a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and raised the age limit for buying rifles from 18 to 21 – remarkable measures in a gun-friendly state.
Although last year’s law allowed some school personnel to carry weapons, guns were still banned from the classroom.
Backers of arming classroom teachers revived the issue this year, arguing that school shootings often erupt too quickly for law enforcement to respond.
In anticipation of passage, school employees in 40 of Florida’s 67 counties already enrolled in or planned to take the 144-hour course, a spokesman for the Speaker of the House said. Some counties have resolved not to participate in the Guardian program.
Florida’s gun-control advocates had made stopping the proposal a top priority, among them Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, which is funded by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.