The Florida Senate has just passed a bill that will allow teachers to voluntarily carry guns if local school boards agree.
The ‘school safety’ bill was passed on Tuesday (April 23) and could see several schools across Florida allowing their teachers to arm themselves.
The move comes a little over a year after a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed 17 people.
The bill, which was supposedly prompted by the Parkland shooting, was approved in a 22-17 vote mostly along party lines, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports as per the New York Post.
This vote almost guarantees the bill will be signed into the law, despite efforts by student activists to derail it. The bill is now heading to the House where it has solid support, with the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, saying he would sign it.
Despite the bill being passed, teachers will not automatically be allowed to carry guns; local school boards would first have to authorise this.
And with many South Florida school officials resisting arming teachers or other school employees in the past, it’s not known how many would give their authorisation.
As per U.S. News & World Report, teachers who choose to arm themselves would need to undergo at least 144 hours of training and pass a psychological evaluation before they would be permitted to do so.
Those who support the measure say that teachers who carry guns could help stop armed attackers in their tracks, noting that sometimes several minutes pass before law enforcement arrives on scene in response to a shooting.
However, those who oppose the bill say armed teachers could create yet another safety risk for students, while also stressing burdening teachers with that responsibility is inappropriate.
The state teachers union opposes the proposal, with hundreds of students travelling to the state Capitol earlier this month in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to reject it.
As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, United Teachers of Dade vice president, Antonio White, told the Florida House Education Committee last month:
Quite frankly, putting more guns in schools is not the right answer to reducing gun violence. Arming teachers is dangerous.
Senator Bill Montford added that providing armed security shouldn’t be teacher’s responsibility, the New York Post reports.
The bill also includes more standard school safety provisions, including a risk assessment process for students and enhanced reporting of safety incidents.
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