Florida Moves To Arm Teachers After School Massacre

Florida’s Republican-controlled state House and Senate advanced bills this week that would train teachers to carry guns in classrooms, advancing GOP calls for more weapons in schools following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The legislature’s package, approved by committees in both chambers, would devote $67 million to establish school “marshals” ― teachers and school staff trained to carry a concealed weapon. 

President Donald Trump last week floated the idea of arming up to 20 percent of teachers, proposing bonuses for educators who undergo training. Law enforcement groups and teacher organizations strongly oppose the idea.

The Florida bills also would raise the minimum age for purchasing a firearm in the state to 21 from 18, ban the sale of bump stocks that allow some semi-automatic rifles to fire as rapidly as an automatic, institute a three-day waiting period for purchasing a gun, and increase spending on school mental health resources.

“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun,” Gov. Rick Scott (R) said last week. “I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun.”

Scott has expressed opposition to arming teachers, but hasn’t said whether he’d approve arming other school staff or whether he supports the bills that advanced this week.

Officials in Florida’s Polk County announced a voluntary program to train and arm teachers last week.

“We had coaches that ran to stand in front of their students with no gun,” county Sheriff Grady Judd said. “Why not give them a fighting chance?”

Other states may have provided inspiration for Trump’s suggestion. Texas already has its own marshal program, and allows school districts to choose whether to arm teachers.

A handful of other states, including South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Ohio and Oklahoma, have either voted similar programs into law or have lax concealed carry laws allowing teachers with permits to bring their own guns to school.

In Idaho, an individual school district launched a voluntary program training educators to use rifles owned by the district in the event of an active shooter situation. Mississippi amended a law this week to allow teachers with permits who undergo training to carry their weapons at school.

Public opinion appears split on the issue. According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 45 percent of respondents who identify as white expressed at least some support for arming teachers. The figure stood at 30 percent for non-white respondents. Almost 70 percent of Republicans, and just 20 percent of Democrats, said they favored the idea.

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