Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence Condemns Vote, Calls on Governor to Remove Guardian Program
The Florida House has rejected amendments that would have removed the Guardian Program from SB 7026. Instead, the House adopted the Senate’s version of the bill, which allows certain teachers and other school personnel to carry firearms in the classroom.
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence strongly believes that instead of relying on educators, we need trained law enforcement officers in our schools whose sole purpose is to identify and respond to threats. We should not put that responsibility on teachers and other school personnel whose first and only job should be teaching and caring for our children.
We call on Governor Rick Scott to remove the Guardian program from SB 7026.
“The Florida PTA believes the safest day-to-day learning climate is one that is gun-free and that only trained school resource officers should be allowed to carry on campus,” said Cindy Gerhardt, president of the Florida PTA. “We call on the Governor to remove the Guardian Program provision of this bill.”
Contrary to the assertion that the bill does not arm teachers, various school personnel would be in a position to carry a weapon under the Guardian Program. The bill exempts only those classroom teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties” from participating in the Guardian Program. However, this exemption includes only a small number of school personnel. Even with the exemption, the following school personnel could participate in the Guardian Program:
Certified school counselors, social workers, career specialists, and school psychologists;
Librarians/media specialists/technology coordinators;
Primary specialists, learning resource specialists, instructional trainers, adjunct educators;
Classroom paraprofessionals in regular instruction, exceptional education paraprofessionals, career education paraprofessionals, adult education paraprofessionals, library paraprofessionals, physical education and playground paraprofessionals and other school-level paraprofessionals;
Doctors, nurses, attorneys, certified public accountants;
School secretaries, library clerks, computer lab assistants, receptionists, bookkeepers, auditors and school accountants, legal clerks, property managers, store keepers;
Custodians, maintenance mechanics, bus drivers, heavy equipment operators, construction crews;
District school superintendents, assistant superintendents, deputy superintendents, school principals, assistant principals, career center directors, and others who perform management activities;
Members of the district school board.
As a result of this bill, these school employees would be permitted to carry firearms in the classroom and other places within the school in close proximity to our students.
“Equality Florida stands with students from Parkland, survivors from Pulse and this Coalition in denouncing the belief that more guns in our schools can solve the epidemic of gun violence,” said Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director of Equality Florida. “The vast majority of Americans believe if you’re purchasing a firearm you should be subject to a background check, without exception, and the vast majority believe assault rifles have no place in the hands of civilians. Every poll taken has shown that Floridians do not support arming teachers and school personnel. This is the wrong direction and we call on Governor Scott to remove this harmful provision.”
The Coalition is also concerned about specific aspects of the Guardian Program, including its silence on the following:
Storage of firearms and ammunition;
Other use-of-force tools or low-lethality tools (pepper spray, baton, taser, etc.) issued to law enforcement;
Civil or criminal liability exposure or insurance requirements;
Reporting requirements or training to document uses of force; and
Who will pay for the 100+ hour training, the firearms, maintenance, storage, periodic re-training and administration of the program.
It is also important to note that former professional law enforcement use-of-force trainers say that barely trained armed civilians will only make things worse. Trained police officers reliably miss their target 50% of the time.
“While we understand the needs of the families of the Parkland victims to see some type of gun-safety legislation passed and we applaud the fact that SB 7026 raises the age to 21 to purchase a gun and provides funding for hardening of schools and mental health screening, introducing more guns into our schools would endanger more students, teachers, school staff and members of the public,” said Patricia Brigham, Coalition Co-chair and 1st Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
“The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence opposes the idea of arming inexperienced educators, administrators and/or support staff as a defense against school gun violence,” said Project Director Mark D. Jones. “It is well-documented that even trained, professional law enforcement officers struggle with a variety of human factors during a lethal force confrontation. The most likely outcome of injecting extra firearms into active shooter scenarios will be tragedy.
“It is not a good idea to ask our teachers to be armed,” said the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes of Bethel Baptist Church of Tallahassee. “This is the role of law enforcement. I believe we need more resource officers in our schools, but to ask teachers to carry firearms in the classroom is asking for chaos. We remember the students at Stoneman Douglas High School by passing common-sense gun reform, and arming teachers is not common sense.”
“The days and hours of debate on this bill reveal the passion and unified motivation to pass safe gun legislation in Florida,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We support those efforts. However, putting more guns in our schools is insufficient. Governor Scott: We can do better, and will. Remove the Guardian program.”
The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence was created by the League of Women Voters of Florida after the Pulse shooting to promote smart gun legislation. It has grown to include more than 120 local, state, and national organizations and includes such diverse groups as The Campaign To Keep Guns Off Campus, Hispanic Federation, the Florida PTA, Equality Florida, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, and Doctors for America.