Florida Senate advances bill making it easier to arm teachers

A measure that would cut some of the red tape from a program to arm educators and school faculty in Florida passed a key committee this week. The bill, SB 7030, was reported favorably by state Senate Education committee 5-3 on Tuesday.

The proposal would allow school or contract employees as well as law enforcement officers to be armed under Florida’s new Guardian Progam provided they are appointed by the local district superintendent and approved by the school board. Currently, the program is more limited to who can participate.

“My eight grandchildren, and their generation, they deserve to have someone ready to protect them if they are available,” state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. “I am asking you to understand that we want to empower those people who can do something, they are the only ones who will be there in a narrow amount of time to save those lives.”

According to the committee analysis, for the last school year at least 25 Florida school districts have established guardian training programs in conjunction with local sheriffs. As of January 2019, 688 guardians had been assigned to public schools in the participating districts. Guardians have to complete extensive training and have a valid concealed carry license. The initiative was one of the few pro-gun aspects of a sweeping package of gun control regulations rushed through the state legislature last year.

The current bill also includes a mandate to establish a workgroup to review campus hardening policies, standardizes risk assessment and reporting in the interest of improved school safety and speeds up to help for students with mental or behavioral problems. The sponsor of the bill, state Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, described the measure as “critical school safety legislation,” that will help “ensure all Florida students are safe in our schools.”

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