Editorials

Schoolbooks, not bullets

AFTER SANDY HOOK: Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy holds a copy of the final report from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission which made recommendations in the areas of public safety, mental health, and gun-violence prevention after the 2012 killings of 20 first-graders and six adults in Connecticut.
AFTER SANDY HOOK: Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy holds a copy of the final report from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission which made recommendations in the areas of public safety, mental health, and gun-violence prevention after the 2012 killings of 20 first-graders and six adults in Connecticut. AP

State Rep. Greg Steube, a Republican from Sarasota, insists his bill to allow some teachers and staffers in public schools to carry concealed weapons could reduce the number of victims at any school under attack. This was a frightening idea in last year’s legislative session, and remains a frightening idea this year. Scarier still, it appears to have more traction this time around.

Mr. Steube’s bill is banking on a horrific scenario, one, sadly, that is not hypothetical: A crazed gunman storms into a school, shooting — and killing — indiscriminately. If there were a teacher or a staffer who could return the fire and end the attack before police arrive, would that not save lives? It might.

But here’s a likelier scenario: Kids who are acting out, arguing, fighting, challenging authority — and unarmed — end up shot, possibly fatally, instead of in the principal’s office because an armed staffer overreacts, is poorly trained or is trigger happy. And that, too, would be horrific. Florida has seen school administrators grow less adept at calming such situations, calling police for even minor dust-ups under zero-tolerance policies.

Rep. Steube first presented his controversial bill in 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, the legislation cleared the House, but stalled in the Senate.

This year, it’s practically a foregone conclusion the bill will pass in the House. Last week, it sailed out of the House K-12 Subcommittee. And this year, Rep. Steube thinks that the bill has a better chance of advancing in the Senate. Teachers and PTAs oppose it, but the lawmaker thinks that members of the upper chamber will embrace the measure when they learn more about it.

Rep. Steube’s bill is among similar proposals this year.

A House bill would allow concealed-weapon-permit holders to carry guns on college campuses. And the Senate is scheduled to take up a bill that would allow special exemptions for gun owners in state-declared emergencies. SB 290, would allow people ordered to flee their homes to carry guns during the first 48 hours after evacuation orders are given — when everyone, of course, is not at their calmest.

Rep. Steube’s House Bill 19 is the most high profile and the prickliest. The bill allows current or former military members or law-enforcement officers in good standing to carry a concealed weapon at elementary, middle and high schools. Each “school safety designee” would have to pass a background check and receive training from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The ultimate decision on whether to allow armed individuals in schools is up to each district or superintendent. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Editorial Board, “In our district, we have a police department with fully trained officers and security guards who are tasked with safety and security of schools and children. We believe it is a more prudent approach to school security.”

Absolutely.

No doubt, the measure reveals a real societal fear Americans harbor living in an armed country. However, turning public schools into armed camps is not the answer. The proliferation of firearms, their availability, is part of the problem.

Assign more officers to protect schools and use technological devices such as cameras. We have said it time and again: Schools need more pencils and computers for their students. Schools need more resources, but not guns.

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