Bipartisan gun-control effort is already backsliding in the Legislature
After last year’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland left 17 dead and many more injured, we saw some refreshing, albeit overdue, movement on combating gun violence in Florida. The law passed by a bipartisan coalition in the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott was not as comprehensive as some hoped, but made some major progress in the fight for gun safety. With the advocacy of grassroots organizations like the League of Women Voters, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Parkland student-formed March for Our Lives, the legislature raised the age to purchase a long gun to 21, mandated a 3-day waiting period, and banned bump stocks, among other achievements.
Last year’s law is proof that when our leaders choose to do so, they are capable of putting partisanship aside, looking past the propaganda, and addressing the public safety crisis perpetuated for decades by the morally vacuous gun industry in America. Ah, but that was last year. If you found yourself wondering how long that spirit of collaborative problemsolving would last in Florida, we finally have our answer: It is already over. Just days before the one-year anniversary of the massacre, we are witnessing a coordinated attempt to undermine that hard-fought progress. Some state legislators — in an apparent bid for the coveted “NRA’s Best Lackey” award — have already filed bills that would repeal the ban on bump stocks, allow guns onto college campuses, and end the waiting period, to name just a few of the absurdly dangerous proposals.
One of the most controversial aspects of last year’s law was the creation of the Guardian Program, which provides money to school districts to place police officers in schools, hire private security, and if needed, arm specially trained, non-classroom personnel. The law specifically excluded teachers, because while our schools need and deserve appropriate security, reasonable minds recognized that we do not need guns in our classrooms.
Some politicians — unsatisfied with the number of new firearms already added to schools — have proposed expanding the guardian program to include teachers, flooding our classrooms with guns and turning our educators into de facto police officers.
Teachers unions, PTAs, and student groups oppose this plan because they know that the risks outweigh any possible benefit. There are already countless examples of service weapons falling into the wrong hands on school property, including one incident last year in Florida where a fifthgrader found a loaded gun that the school security guard left in the bathroom. The proponents of arming teachers also fail to account for the “blue on blue” effect, where police officers cannot differentiate between a good person with a gun and a bad person with a gun, resulting in law enforcement killing an innocent person.
These risks are not theoretical; this plan poses a significant threat to the safety of students and teachers, which is why some school districts have been hesitant to implement the guardian program. In response, pro-gun advocates have suggested a Tallahassee power grab, encouraging the state to take authority away from school boards entirely, forcing schools to have more guns even if they do not want them, and punishing those communities that refuse to expand the number of firearms on their campuses. The last thing we need is yet another top-down mandate from the Capitol onto our schools.
The assertion that more guns will solve this problem is preposterous and dangerous. The teachers and school boards do not want it. The parents and students do not want it. It seems the only people who actually want more firearms in schools are the merchants of death who profit from gun sales and the politicians subservient to them.