Politics
5:40 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Lawmakers Consider Bills To Allow Guns On School Campuses

Florida lawmakers debate guns on school campuses. Listen to the story.
Guns would be allowed at school under a bill being considered by Florida lawmakers. The bill would allow at least one volunteer or school employee to carry a concealed weapon.
Credit freedigitalphotos.net

An effort to bring guns to school campuses is moving through the Florida Legislature.

The bill sponsors say this isn’t such a far-fetched idea - eight states allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring guns to school.

Supporters say this may be the best chance to save lives. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says research on school shootings has found the attacks are often over before police or deputies can respond.

Steube told lawmakers the attacker at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut took less than five minutes to kill 26 kids and staff members.

“Think about the facts and the research that went into this and the reasons why it’s important to have somebody there that has the proper training that can respond,” Steube said.

The bill gives schools boards the option of adding armed personnel on campuses and in school-district buildings.

Only people with experience in law enforcement or the military would be considered. They would have to pass a background check and go through firearm and school-safety training.

Tallahassee civil rights activist Bishop Holifield told lawmakers he’s concerned about racial profiling.

“More guns in more hands means it’s more likely that lives will be taken,” Holifield said. “From the black community’s perspective, that means lives may be taken – based on the history that we have in this state -- for no good reason.”

The Florida School Boards Association opposes the bill. The group supports having an armed, uniformed police officer at every school. But executive director Wayne Blanton says they don’t want armed volunteers giving students the wrong impression.

“Why can’t these impressionable young people go out on the streets when they talk to each other and say, ‘Well, my teacher’s carrying a gun. Why can’t I?'” Blanton said.

“The answer to that question is because it’s against the law,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, one of the bill sponsors. “Your teacher is acting within the law for your protection.”

Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, asked how the armed employee should handle a teenager who’s having a bad day.

“They may get a little belligerent or something. Is there some anticipation that this person will do something with their gun?” Gibson asked.

“Of course not,” Hays replied. “The anticipation is that the weapons would be used only in dire need.” 

Hays says his bill lets school boards decide whether to have armed personnel on campus – it’s not a mandate.

The bill also provides for lockdown drills, just like fire drills, in case of a shooting or hostage situation.