FLORIDA

Arming teachers a dangerous concept

 
 
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Montesino / MCT

carlton@tampabay.com

What’s the worst gun legislation being considered by Florida lawmakers? Really, it’s hard to pick.

Is it the one that adds, instead of any thoughtful change to the controversial stand your ground law, a warning shot?

Or a ridiculous bill to protect a kid’s right to chew a waffle (or preferred breakfast pastry) into a gun shape?

No, I think I'll go with the proposal that could arm teachers at school.

Under this one, school authorities could designate employees to carry loaded guns on campus — even as they stand at the blackboard before a class full of students or line up first-graders for lunch.

Employees or volunteers eligible to pack heat could be people with law enforcement or military backgrounds, or pretty much anyone with a concealed-weapons permit. They would undergo gun and safety training.

So that’s more guns, in schools, with kids.

Yes, some states already allow guns at school with specific or written permission or for an approved event. But this pending bill is a wrongheaded reaction to the unimaginable tragedy of 20 children dead at the hands of a madman in Connecticut.

While the bill moved along last week — we are the Gunshine State, after all — plenty of parents, teachers and school boards opposed it.

“This is not something you can fix by just saying, ‘You can carry a gun,’ ” said Hillsborough school superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who calls the proposal “extremely scary.”

Elia’s response to the Sandy Hook shootings: a plan for trained, armed officers at elementary schools (sworn law-enforcement officers are already at middle and high schools). But guns as allowed by this bill? “I just don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for teachers or administrators” there to educate students.

Ditto for Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, who supports uniformed officers at schools but sees this bill as an accident waiting to happen. Two guns per school means thousands statewide. What are the odds something goes wrong?

And what does an armed teacher — a role model — say to a kid?

“We think it sends the wrong message to our young people: My teacher needs a gun to be safe; why don’t I need a gun to be safe on the street?” Blanton says.

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning echoes the concern that someone will get careless. “If the Legislature’s concerned about safety in our schools, I would love for them to appropriate money where we can hire additional school resource officers,” he says.

So, if experienced educators think this is the wrong way to go, who does like this kind of law?

Bet you can guess.

The powerful National Rifle Association is throwing its considerable support behind several gun bills, including the one that says a student can’t be seriously disciplined for chewing a Pop Tart into a play gun or pointing a finger and saying bang. We need a law for this?

One to arm teachers, too, apparently.

Said formidable NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer: “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Which works great in comic books and movies. Those are the only places aim is always true, bullets never hit anyone but intended targets and bad guys come clearly marked.

And no one is ever, even for a moment, careless with a gun, and a kid never gets his hands on one and fires.

Sue Carlton is a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

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