Gun Control Activists Slam Florida Senate Vote That Could See Teachers Armed

Florida, Teachers, Guns
March for Our Lives students place gun violence prevention art on the U.S. Capitol grounds on March 26, in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, Florida lawmakers approved a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns at school if they have the backing of their local school boards. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Florida lawmakers approved a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns at school if they have the backing of their local school boards.

The Florida Senate was split 22-17 on the bill, which will now move to the House. According to the Sun Sentinel, House lawmakers were likely to support the bill, which Governor Ron DeSantis signaled he would sign.

Gun control activists quickly attacked the vote on social media, with the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence tweeting: "#SB7030 passes the Senate by a vote of 22-17 despite opposition from students, parents, and teachers. Thank you to the Senators who voted against the bill."

Amy Donofrio of the Evac Movement bemoaned the impact the Senate's vote might have on students of color. "Today Florida didn't just pass a bill to arm teachers, we signed death certificates for kids of color. We looked at factual racial bias in teacher expectations, referrals & discipline...and signed a permit to extend the pipeline to the cemetery," she wrote on Facebook.

Team Enough, part of anti-gun violence campaign Brady United, tweeted it would "refuse to let this become a national model."

The divisive Senate bill would expand on existing legislation that allows certain staff members to carry firearms. Introduced in the wake of the February 2018 Parkland shooting that saw 17 students and staff members die at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the existing legislation also restricted the sale of guns in a historically pro-gun state.

The latest proposal would require teachers who volunteer to be armed to pass psychological tests and complete a minimum of 144 hours of training, the Sentinel noted.

The bill split lawmakers largely along party lines. Criticizing the legislation, Senator Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat, said teachers had criticized the bill, saying they had enough responsibility already without becoming armed guards. "What we are telling teachers [is] if you want protection for you and your children then you do it yourself," he said, according to the Sentinel.

But Senator Ed Hooper, a Clearwater Republilcan, suggested a teacher might have been able to stop the Parkland shooter if the teacher had had a firearm. He said: "I must err on the side of saving a kid." A recent state commission concluded some lives might have been saved by the presence of armed faculty members, The New York Times reported.

Other prominent Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have said arming teachers would improve safety. But Parkland survivor and activist Alfonso Calderon challenged that stance in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon.

"I don't know if Donald Trump has ever been to a public high school, but as far as I'm aware, teachers are meant to be educators," Calderon said. "They're meant to teach young minds how to work in the real world. They are not meant to know how to carry AR-15s. They are not meant to know how to put on Kevlar vests for the other students or themselves."

Parkland survivor Sari Kaufman criticized the latest bill in an op-ed in the Sentinel last week. "There is no evidence that this will make me or my classmates any safer. In fact, arming teachers ignores research that shows the presence of a gun actually increases the risk to students. All arming teachers will do is increase the likelihood of gun violence in our schools."

Some educators slammed the result of the Senate vote on social media Tuesday. In a tweet shared by Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin, teacher and activist Nicholas Ferroni wrote: "Things teachers will do: Educate students, care about students, inspire students, feed students, nurture students, be there for our students. Things teachers will never do: carry a gun, because we care too much about our students to put them in harm's way."

Citing Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) poll results, pollster and former teacher Josh Starr said: "Say it with me, and be loud for the folks in the back row: The American public does NOT approve of arming teachers."