Last week, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance SB 7030, a school safety bill which would expand the Guardian Program established in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act by allowing classroom teachers to be armed, possibly over the objection of local sheriffs. Tomorrow, the bill heads to the Senate floor for a hearing. Much of the bill deals with common-sense school safety measures, but the proposal to arm teachers has sparked outrage and opposition across the state.
- Volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have urged lawmakers not to arm teachers since the legislative session began. In February, 500 Moms Demand Action volunteers traveled to the capitol to ask their representatives to reject efforts to arm teachers and prioritize gun violence prevention measures instead.
- School boards across the state are standing up against this bill by voting to never arm their teachers.A report from the Tampa Bay Times revealed that only a minority of school districts have chosen to implement the existing Guardian Program and several of those that did experienced problems. Both the Sarasota school board and Pinellas school board have voted not to allow teachers to be armed even if the legislation passes.
- Educators overwhelmingly oppose legislation that would allow them to carry guns in classrooms. Fredrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, raised serious concerns at the idea of arming teachers, suggesting instead that schools should increase physical security and funding for mental health staff. A poll of more than a thousand educators in Orange County found that 70 percent of those polled opposed the idea of arming school staff who are not law enforcement.
- Polls of Florida voters show that arming teachers is an unpopular proposal. 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.
- Survivors of gun violence do not believe that arming teachers is the answer. Gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wrote that arming teachers is “a dangerous and short-sighted idea.”
- Rep. Adam Hattersley, a U.S. Navy veteran, unequivocally rejected the idea of arming teachers. Citing opposition from teachers, educators and veterans, Rep. Hattersley wrote that “as a U.S. Navy veteran who has fought to protect and defend freedom, including the right to bear arms, I oppose legislation that puts guns into teachers’ hands.”
- Students across the state have spoken out against the bill. Volunteers with Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a rally in Gainesville encouraging lawmakers to support “books not bullets.” Ahead of a scheduled hearing of a similar bill on the House floor, students with March for our Lives from Orlando, Gainesville and Tampa traveled to Tallahassee to show their opposition.
- Editorials from across the state have spoken out against this risky proposal. The Gainesville Sun, Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, The Palm Beach Post and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune have opposed the idea of arming teachers.
Despite widespread opposition to the proposed expansion of the Guardian Program, statewide stakeholders have shown support for other aspects of the bill, including improved threat assessment programs and emergency planning. Lawmakers should remove provisions to arm teachers from the bill and instead allow the Senate to vote on solutions that gun safety advocates, school safety experts and educators agree would truly keep our schools safe.