Teach­ers with guns only makes sense to law­mak­ers who have lost their minds

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY CARL HIAASEN

From the What-Could-Pos­si­bly-Go-Wrong? Depart­ment:

A bill al­low­ing Florida teach­ers to carry guns in pub­lic schools passed the Leg­is­la­ture last week and is ex­pected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSan­tis.

Teach­ers will soon be able to vol­un­teer as “armed guardians” in their schools after at­tend­ing firearms train­ing, un­der­go­ing a psy­chi­atric eval­u­a­tion and agree­ing to drug tests.

Drafted in re­sponse to last year’s Park­land mas­sacre, the law was strongly op­posed by the state’s largest teach­ers union, the Florida Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, many par­ents and some of the stu­dents who sur­vived the mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High. Sev­eral law­mak­ers ex­pressed con­cern that AfricanAmer­i­can stu­dents will be put at height­ened risk be­cause of a re­flex­ive bias among some gun own­ers.

The Repub­li­cans who pushed the plan to arm ed­u­ca­tors say it pro­vides a faster front-line de­fense dur­ing at­tacks on schools. Their fantasy sce­nario must be a so­cial stud­ies teacher-turned-marks­man, coolly whip­ping out his Glock and tak­ing down an ac­tive shooter be­fore a ram­page be­gins.

Other sce­nar­ios, truer to real life, wouldn’t have such heroic Hol­ly­wood end­ings.

It’s not hard to imag­ine a newly cer­ti­fied armed guardian — scared and jacked on adren­a­line, as any av­er­age per­son would be — fir­ing with un­steady hands at an as­sailant but ac­ci­den­tally killing flee­ing stu­dents in­stead.

Such heart-wrench­ing mis­takes have been made by sol­diers in com­bat, and by vet­eran street cops and de­tec­tives. It’s ex­pect­ing a lot from an untested civil­ian hold­ing a pis­tol to hit a mov­ing tar­get in the midst of chaos — a tar­get that’s shoot­ing back.

An­other fantasy no­tion, fed by the NRA, is the premise that merely putting more guns in schools will make schools safer. Any par­ent with sons or daugh­ters at a big pub­lic high school should have no trou­ble en­vi­sion­ing sit­u­a­tions when a loaded firearm is the last thing you’d want to see in a class­room.

It’s not that hard to imag­ine a kid who’s been bul­lied to the break­ing point, snatch­ing the pis­tol from the hol­ster of a pre­oc­cu­pied teacher and turn­ing it on the class­mates who’ve been tor­ment­ing him. …

Or a kid who learns he just flunked an al­ge­bra test, trashed his GPA and lost his spot on the foot­ball team, fu­ri­ously over­pow­er­ing the teacher, grab­bing the teacher’s gun. …

Or imag­ine an armed “guardian” teacher with se­ri­ous emo­tional prob­lems that no psy­chi­atric test de­tected, and no one at the school knew about. …

The possibility of such night­mare events is one rea­son most county school ad­min­is­tra­tors op­pose the arm­ing of teach­ers, de­spite the rec­om­men­da­tions of a task force that stud­ied the Valen­tine’s Day slaugh­ter at Stone­man Dou­glas.

Florida has more than 3,600 pub­lic and char­ter schools, all of which are now re­quired to have at least one armed “safeschool of­fi­cer.” There’s a se­ri­ous short­age of both qual­i­fied per­son­nel and fund­ing, which is one rea­son the guardian pro­gram was ini­ti­ated last year.

An­other rea­son is that too many politi­cians re­main afraid of the NRA, which for years has been lob­by­ing to get more guns on college cam­puses. The hor­ror in Park­land pre­sented a prime op­por­tu­nity to go after high schools, too.

The first ver­sion of the guardian pro­gram al­lowed staff mem­bers but not full-time class­room teach­ers to carry weapons. It was widely snubbed by school dis­tricts, which are un­der­stand­ably leery about us­ing any­one ex­cept trained pro­fes­sion­als.

Last week’s pas­sage of the ex­panded guardian law gen­er­ated na­tional head­lines for giv­ing Florida teach­ers a gun­sling­ing role. The good news is that a rel­a­tively small num­ber of them will be pack­ing heat on the job.

That’s be­cause the law also gives school dis­tricts the op­tion of not par­tic­i­pat­ing. Only 25 of 67 coun­ties signed on for the ini­tial armed guardian pro­gram, and most of them did it to fund hir­ing of more se­cu­rity guards – not to train staff mem­bers how to shoot.

Florida’s two big­gest school sys­tems, Mi­ami-Dade and Broward, won’t have any teach­ers with guns on cam­pus. Mi­amiDade Su­per­in­ten­dent Alberto Car­valho said “safety and se­cu­rity shall be pro­vided by law en­force­ment, the only en­ti­ties al­lowed to carry firearms into schools.”

Broward Su­per­in­ten­dent Robert Run­cie echoed the same thing: “We do not be­lieve arm­ing teach­ers is the best way to make schools safe.”

The truth is that arm­ing anybody to guard stu­dents car­ries a risk.

One day be­fore the Leg­is­la­ture voted to let teach­ers bring firearms, a re­source of­fi­cer at Weight­man Mid­dle School in Pasco County was lean­ing against a wall in the crowded cafe­te­ria when the gun in his hol­ster went off.

Luck­ily, nei­ther the deputy nor any of the kids got hurt. The wall got a bul­let hole.

And ev­ery wait­ing mom and dad got a knot in their stom­ach.

Carl Hiaasen is a colum­nist for the Mi­ami Her­ald. Read­ers may write to him at: The Mi­ami Her­ald, 3511 N.W. 91 Av­enue, Do­ral, Fla. 33172; email: chi­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com.

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