TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Voting mostly along party lines, the Florida Senate passed a school safety bill Tuesday that would allow teachers to carry guns on campus if local school boards approve, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The vote comes 14 months after after last year’s Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland that killed 17 people, including 14 students.
The 53-page bill, which passed by a 22-17 margin, now goes to the Florida House of Representatives, the newspaper reported. It passed with a clause that included an expansion of the “Guardian” program created in 2018, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The program allows teachers to carry guns after completing psychological screening and at least 144 hours training from a sheriff’s office, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The bill includes other items aimed at beefing up school safety, including more reporting of school safety incidents, a standardized risk assessment process for dangerous students and brand-new guidelines on school-based mental health, the newspaper reported.
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who served on the post-Parkland commission that reviewed the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, gave an emotional speech opposing the bill, although she said she was conflicted by the proposal, the Times reported.
“Outside of this role (on the commission) I’m a mom who recently began dropping off my own kids off at school. I always figured I’d tear up because of how sweet and cute they are,” Book said on the Senate floor. “I never imagined tears streaming down my face because I’m afraid of what might happen to them.
“I must, at the urging of my community, vote no today, but it’s an exceedingly, exceedingly painful vote.”
Lawmakers in favor of the bill said an armed teacher might have been the difference in stopping a shooter and preventing an incident like the one that occurred in Parkland, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“I must err on the side of saving a kid,” said. Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.
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