BROWARD (CBSMiami/NSF) – A controversial gun bill gaining traction in the Florida legislature isn’t garnering much support in South Florida education circles.
Under Senate Bill 968, which passed a Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, Military veterans or retired law-enforcement officers with concealed weapons permits and special training could be designated to bring guns into elementary, middle and high schools statewide.
The measure is similar to one pushed by the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 students and six school staff.
“We do not believe that arming administrators and teachers is the right solution to ensure the safety of our schools,” Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie tells CBS 4 News. “We need to continue working with local law enforcement, our school resource officers, campus security specialists and monitors to maintain safe learning environments.”
Under the bill, principals and school superintendents could appoint staff members or volunteers who are military veterans with honorable discharges, active military or retired law enforcement officials as gun-toting “designees.” They would be required to carry concealed weapons with them at all times on school property.
The designees would have to undergo 40 hours of school-safety training and an additional 12 hours of special training annually, comprised of eight hours of active shooter training and four hours of firearm-proficiency training.
The measure is intended to prevent a scenario like Sandy Hook or Columbine in the state of Florida and would be optional, said bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
“Part of our tactics here is to not let those perpetrators of evil, for them to think there’s no weapons at a school so I can go in there and not have any resistance. They don’t know that there are going to be weapons there but neither do they know that there are not,” Hays said.
But Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton said that many schools already have school resource officers, who are active law-enforcement officers, and that the goal is to have such an officer in each school.
“Uniformed, trained, police officers in every school… That’s what we really need,” Blanton said. “We do not need teachers, or in this case, volunteers, in our schools, carrying weapons.”
The head of the Broward Teachers Union doesn’t support the proposed legislation either.
“I don’t think teachers should be carrying guns. They are supposed to be models for our students. What kind of message does that send that your teacher, your role model is armed,” said BTU president Sharon Glickman.
Members of the Dade County school board also shot down the bill.
The proposal now leaves decisions about whether to have an armed “designee” up to school principals. Hays said he would amend the measure to allow school boards to decide whether they want such a program, instead of leaving it up to principals.
“The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.”