MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A strong shot in the arm Wednesday for a law that would allow teachers and others to arm themselves in public schools in Florida.
Police and schools have routinely conducted “live shooter” practice drills. But schools in the future may not have to wait for police to arrive.
In Tallahassee a key house committee approved a bill that will allow staff and volunteers to carry guns in public schools. The argument is most elementary schools don’t have police officers assigned to them.
“It will allow for tremendous peace of mind for parents,” said Republican Representative Erik Fresen of Miami. “Somebody at that school site who is trained can actually be there to respond if, God forbid, something should happen.”
The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in December, 2012 was the tipping point in a growing move to arm public school teachers, staff and volunteer defenders.
“We saw it at Sandy Hook,” said Rep. Greg Steube(R)-Sarasota, sponsor of the Florida bill. “In four minutes that shooter walked in, killed 20 students, six administrators and then killed himself before law enforcement even walked into the building.”
The Florida bill would require background checks for those carrying guns at school, and give preference to retired cops, and gun-savvy military veterans.
“I respect the people who come back, but I don’t think an “American Sniper” approach is the way to protect our kids,” said Democratic Representative Joe Geller of Aventura who opposed the bill.
The proposed law would not require mental health screening of those who pack heat in the hallways. The suggestion that veterans are prone to mental health problems infuriated Steube.
“As a military member, who served in Iraq, I get a little bit offended that you think that all of us who go and serve honorably, come back and have issues that we have to deal with,” Steube said.
“I think schools and guns just don’t mix,” countered Geller.
But among the 13-member, bi-partisan House K-12 Committee, only Geller voted against moving the measure forward.
Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian Moffett issued a statement Wednesday strongly condemning the proposal to arm a mixed bag of volunteers in public schools.
“The only persons that are authorized to carry firearms on school campuses should be current and retired police officers,” Moffett said, who are highly trained in “shoot or don’t shoot scenarios.”
Moffett called the bill that advanced Thursday a “recipe for disaster.”
To read Chief Moffett’s entire statement, click here.
Pro-gun lawmakers aren’t stopping at the K-12 level. Another gun bill barreling through the legislature would allow anyone with a permit to carry their concealed weapon on college campuses. That measure was introduced after a shooter killed one student and wounded three others last year at Florida State University.
The college campus bill counters current policy at every state university, where guns are banned.