After hours of emotional debate, Florida’s House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom.
S.B. 7030, which was approved 22-17 by the state Senate last week, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation is an expansion of the so-called “Guardian program,” which was created by lawmakers last year in response to the deadly massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Under the voluntary program, participating school districts are allowed to arm some school personnel. Guns have thus far remained barred from classrooms — though that will change with S.B. 7030’s passage.
The bill states that teachers who volunteer to carry a gun on campus will first need to undergo screening and a 144-hour training course. A spokesman for the Speaker of the House told Reuters that school employees in a majority of Florida’s counties ― 40 out of 67 ― have already enrolled in or are planning to take the training.
Some school districts have said, however, that they will not participate in the expanded Guardian program.
The superintendent of the Miami-Dade County school district told the Miami Herald that while it plans to staff its schools with more armed officers, it will not give guns to its teachers.
The superintendent of the Broward County school district, of which Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a part, echoed this sentiment.
“We do not believe arming teachers is the best way to make our schools safe.” Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Herald.
Survivors of the Parkland massacre have been vocal in their opposition to the idea of having guns in the classroom. David Hogg, a student-turned-gun control activist, said in December that “arming teachers does just about as much as thoughts and prayers to reduce gun violence.”
Last week, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime, who died in the Parkland shooting, questioned how legislators “plan to fix the issues that will arise from more guns in Florida schools combined with the worst mental health system in the country.”
Fedrick Ingram, the head of the Florida Education Association, agreed that lawmakers should be thinking more about mental health issues, and said arming teachers was ultimately a “wrong decision” stemming from the “wrong conversation.”
“Unfortunately, [lawmakers] have not asked teachers how to make these schools safer, because any teacher will tell you that we need to be talking about counseling and mental health issues,” Ingram told HuffPost in February. “Those are the things that will stop these issues before they happen.”
At least one Parkland parent has expressed support for the new bill.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the Parkland attack, tweeted last week that “when no one went in to save my daughter, a teacher could have.”