TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following response after the Florida Senate voted against an amendment to SB 7030 that would have stripped an expansion of the Guardian Program from the bill. The Guardian Program was established in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act and, in its current form, allows school employees whose primary duty is not as a classroom teacher to be armed. If passed, SB 7030 will expand the program to allow classroom teachers to be armed, possibly over the objection of local sheriffs.
“We are incredibly disappointed that today, members of the Senate failed to remove arming teachers from the school safety bill,” said Gay Valimont, volunteer leader with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Our leaders could have removed this risky and unpopular provision from a bill that has so many good policies in it. Instead, they voted against the teachers, students and parents who have expressed our concerns about arming teachers with guns. We stand in staunch opposition to this bill and urge the Senate to vote it down.”
“Over the past few months, my friends and I have done everything lawmakers encourage people our age to do. We have learned about the legislative process, educated ourselves about the idea of arming teachers and spoken out about how opposed we are to this policy. Yet, they didn’t listen,” said Jovanna Liuzzo, volunteer with the Florida chapter of Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Members of the Senate need to rethink their position and vote against this bill — our lives literally depend on it.”
This bill would be a risky expansion to an already unpopular and dangerous program. A report from the Tampa Bay Times revealed that only a minority of school districts have chosen to implement the Guardian Program and several of those that did experienced problems. In fact, the Sarasota school board voted not to arm teachers even if the legislation passes. Editorials from the Gainesville Sun, Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, The Palm Beach Post and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune have opposed the idea of arming teachers. Recently, an article in the Miami New Times highlighted instances of Florida teachers misusing guns, indicating that arming teachers is dangerous and can lead to unintentional shootings.
Arming teachers is also unpopular with voters; a recent poll from Quinnipiac University showed that a strong majority of Florida voters oppose allowing teachers or school officials to carry guns in schools, even if they are given training.
Research indicates that arming teachers will make children less safe. For this reason, school safety experts, teachers and law enforcement officials across the country oppose arming teachers, including the Florida Education Association. The National Association of School Resource Officers, the largest organization of school-based law enforcement officers, also opposes arming teachers.