Florida Lawmakers Just Voted To Arm Teachers -- WTF Is Happening?

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Mickey Adair/Getty Images

The $67 million bill seeks to train teachers to act as armed ‘school marshals’

Members of the Florida House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a bill that would arm teachers, despite the fact that officials from Stoneman Douglas High School and many in the Parkland community object to the legislation.

Yesterday, the Committee approved training teachers to carry guns in class under the direction of local law enforcement — conditional upon the approval of the superintendent and school board. The state Senate passed a similar bill on Tuesday as well.

The horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, has ignited a national conversation on gun control unlike anything that’s preceded it. The Stoneman Douglas community have rapidly become powerful, influential gun control activists — so why aren’t Florida lawmakers listening to them?

Superintendent Robert Runcie, of the Broward County Public Schools district, openly spoke out against the bill proposal last week during CNN’s televised town hall. Many students and parents have also voiced their opposition to arming teachers in classrooms.

Representative Jose Oliva, a Republican member of the Committee, called teachers with guns “the last line of defense.” If you think that’s bad, brace yourself for what the proposal entails. It honestly reads like something out of a dystopian Bruce Willis film.

While the House bill, which will cost the state of Florida $67 million, does impose a three-day waiting period for gun purchases and raises the age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21 — both good starts — the rest of it is where things get dicey.

The goal of the “school marshal” portion of the bill: to arm 10 “marshals” (aka teachers with guns) in every school, which equals 37,000 statewide. The state of Florida will be responsible for paying for background checks, drug testing, psychological exams, and 132 hours of training. The bill doesn’t specifically address whether teachers would be provided guns by the state or if they have to buy them on their own. The “marshals” get a one-time $500 stipend if they volunteer to have a gun.

Look, if I’m a teacher and there’s a loaded weapon in my classroom at all times, a one-time stipend of $500 isn’t worth the risk — volunteer or no. Also, teachers are teachers. The possibility of arming nearly 40,000 school teachers with guns so they can pull double duty as “marshals” too is beyond disconcerting.

Understandably, this bill isn’t sitting well with people who have simply had ENOUGH.

Yes, let’s not forget that one week after the mass shooting, the Florida House recently voted against a ban on assault weapons.

While the state of Florida and the Parkland community in particular have impressed the entire world by allowing us the privilege to witness their perseverance in the face of unfathomable adversity — their elected officials have got a long way to go.