St. Petersburg, Florida – A controversial bill that aims to arm some teachers and school administrators was given a favorable majority vote in the House Justice Appropriations Committee, bringing it one step closer to a full vote.
HB 753 gives schools the option to appoint current or former military or law enforcement official who work in the schools to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
According to the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube from Sarasota, individuals would be required to go through 40 hours of school safety training, eight hours of active-shooter training, and four hours of firearm qualification every year.
"I can't support that, I really can't. I can see where they might be a school resource officer on campus," said Citrus area mother Gina Gardner
But Rep. Greg Steube says his bill could prevent a situation like Sandy Hook, where police didn't entered the school until 10 minutes after the first 911 call, giving the shooter more time to murder innocent children and teachers.
"Anything could happen. It could take 15, 20 minutes for anyone to be dispatched," said Shannon Hammer, whose children attend school in the Citrus Park area.
Among those who do not agree with the bill is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. While he believes it is well-intended, he believes firming up a school building's infrastructure is the way to go.
"As an example, take the classroom doors and take the windows out of them and put a mechanism on the door so the teacher can lock the door remotely and then somebody can't get into the classroom," said the sheriff.
The Florida School Board Association has come out against the bill to arm teachers.
"Classroom teachers and school administrators typically serve as role models for their students and arming classroom teachers or school administrators would undermine their credibility as role models in the eyes of impressionable students; and arming classroom teachers and administrators would conflict with statutory curriculum provisions promoting non-violence, character education, and anti-bullying policies," wrote FSBA in a statement.
While a similar proposal failed last year, this bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.