Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool. And while Florida has been fortunate in the year that followed to be spared from additional gun violence in our public schools, the legislature took one step closer to issuing another response to the crisis with Senate Bill 7030 making its way through an important committee step. The bill which could be voted on as soon as the state legislature returns from break aims to expand the class of individuals who can carry firearms on school grounds from “non-instructional staff” to teachers in the classroom.
The Republican led houses tried to include similar language in a law that passed last year. However, then Governor Scott raised objections to teachers being armed and the section was removed. However, it appears the legislature has a new ally in Florida’s current governor, Ron Desantis, who has signaled support for the measure. Therefore, with the executive roadblock removed, it looks as clear passage will occur for the idea.
Interestingly, the day before the committee vote seventeen family members of victims of the Parkland shooting tried to shape their own policy on the issue by submitting a petition to ban “assault weapons,” which the families classified as any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of carrying more than 10 rounds internally or by magazine. Most polls show a majority of Floridians as well as teacher unions are not in favor of putting firearms in the classroom.
However, the idea gained further momentum when a safety commission tasked with providing ideas to curb school violence issued a report supporting the measure. Pinellas County Sherriff Bob Gualtieri who previously opposed the idea has now thrown his support behind it. Citing a lack of law enforcement personnel available to protect children, the Sherriff found recruiting teachers to be an appropriate recommendation especially in rural areas.1
Obviously, gun violence is still a hot topic among many in the country. Even Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, referenced the possibility of a future Democratic President declaring a national emergency over the subject when answering questions posed by the press in response to President’s Trump declaration over funding for the border wall. No matter what your views on the issue, it is clear that until a lasting, permanent solution is reached we can expect further debates and legislation out of Tallahassee and Washington D.C. in the years to come.
-By Marc Consalo, Director of the Center for Law and Policy