Editorials

Teachers with guns will make schools even less safe. Veto this dangerous legislation, Gov. DeSantis

Students lead an anti-gun, anti-violence demonstration on the steps of the Broward County Courthouse three days after the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students lead an anti-gun, anti-violence demonstration on the steps of the Broward County Courthouse three days after the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Getty Images

With any luck — and training, and an aim that’s true — an armed teacher might, might, take down an active shooter in the classroom or corridor.

But luck should play no role when it comes allowing teachers bring guns to school. Too many Republicans in the Florida Legislature are convinced that this is the best way to prevent mass shootings like the horror last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, in which 17 people died — 14 students and three adults.

We vehemently disagree. So do law-enforcement organizations, teachers groups, advocates for sensible gun laws and students who survived the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas.

These are the people to whom Gov. Ron DeSantis should listen. If he does, he will veto the dangerously misbegotten legislation lawmakers beholden to the NRA pushed through this session.

Legislators ignored the concerns of law enforcement. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, among others, which represents 75 police departments in large cities in the United States and Canada, says that, “The more guns that are coming into the equation, the more volatility and the more risk there is of somebody getting hurt.” Including accidental discharges.

It’s telling that the FBI found that in 250 active-shooter incidents, armed civilians successfully intervened only seven times, while unarmed civilians successfully intervened in 22 such incidents. What happens when scared and screaming students come between a gunman and a rattled teacher with a gun?

They ignored teachers. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are clear: “Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea and instead focus on measures that will create the safe and supportive learning environments our children deserve.”

They ignored Stoneman Douglas students. Lauren Hogg and Ryan Deitsch wrote on the Herald’s May 3 Opinion page: “If the Florida Legislature wanted to protect us, they would have passed meaningful legislation like safe storage or anything else to help stop guns from getting into the wrong hands.”

And they ignored a Democratic colleague who pointedly and passionately spoke for millions of African-American students and their families. Studies make clear that black students are punished — arrested, suspended, expelled — more harshly that their white classmates for the same misbehavior. It’s called the “school to prison” pipeline with good reason.

State Rep. Shevrin Jones passionately and pointedly said on the House floor last week, African-American students, no doubt, will bear the brunt of this policy.

“If cops always pull out their guns and shoot because they are in fear for their lives when confronting black and brown men, imagine that teacher with a gun who looks at who they consider a thug,” Jones told the Editorial Board on Saturday.

But the majority of Republican colleagues swatted down an amendment Jones sought to add to the misguided legislation. The amendment would have required valuable implicit-bias training for teachers who sign up to carry a weapon. “All of us have a bias,” Jones said. “Teachers have to understand that however they see one community, they have to be careful how they see an individual from that community.”

To their credit, South Florida Republican Reps. Vance Aloupis and Chip LaMarca voted for Jones’ amendment. They, too, understand how perilous the black student’s journey can be in public schools.

As leader who is rightly committed to letting research and science guide Florida’s environmental policy, DeSantis cannot now ignore credible research that says arming teachers is a bad deal, for students, law enforcement officers and Florida’s image as a state that takes safety seriously.

Preventable worst-case scenarios are far more likely to happen even if a mass shooter wielding an AR-15 never comes blasting through the classroom door.

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