Bi­par­ti­san gun-con­trol ef­fort is al­ready back­slid­ing in the Leg­is­la­ture

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Ben Fried­man Guest Colum­nist Ben Fried­man is an at­tor­ney and ad­vo­cate who serves as statewide gun safety chair for the League of Women Vot­ers of Florida and is a mem­ber of the steer­ing com­mit­tee for the Florida Coali­tion to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence.

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.

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