Florida

House panel approves bill allowing armed teachers

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says the guns in schools measure would keep students and teachers safe in a school shooting.
State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says the guns in schools measure would keep students and teachers safe in a school shooting. Florida House of Representatives

Is the third time a charm for a proposal that would allow Florida teachers to pack heat?

Some members of the state House of Representatives hope so.

The controversial bill, which won the support of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee on Wednesday, is likely to move quickly in the lower chamber.

But it may struggle to win votes in the more moderate Senate — largely because of opposition from the teachers union and PTA.

The proposal (HB 19) would let schools superintendents designate employees or volunteers to carry concealed weapons on school property.

Any designated individuals would have to have served in the military or law enforcement, and undergo special training from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

They would also need to hold concealed weapons permits.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says the measure would keep students and teachers safe in a school shooting.

“Most of our elementary schools do not have a school resource officer or anyone there that can respond to any type of armed threat,” Steube said. “So they are at the whim of a shooter until a law enforcement officer gets there.”

Steube first pitched the bill in 2013, shortly after a shooter took the lives of 20 students and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

It passed on the House Floor in 2014, but stalled in the Senate.

The latest version of the bill won the support of the Florida Sheriffs Association on Wednesday.

Republican and Democratic members of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee spoke in support of the proposal, too.

“It would allow for a tremendous peace of mind for parents to know that there is somebody at the school site who is trained and can actually be there to respond if, God forbid, one of these events happened,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Only one member of the panel voted no.

Rep. Joe Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, said he would prefer to see a trained police officer assigned to every school in Florida.

“I don’t think an American Sniper approach is the way to protect our kids,” Geller said.

Lawmakers are also considering a proposal that would allow permitted individuals to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.

ABOUT THE SCHOOLS GUN BILL

The legislation (HB 19) on Wednesday received the backing of the House K-12 Subcommittee on a bipartisan, 10-1 vote. Under the proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, school superintendents could allow designated people to carry weapons on campus. Those people could be current or former law enforcement officers or current or former members of the military. They would have to pass background checks, take school-safety courses and have concealed-weapons licenses.

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