Florida lawmakers passed a piece of legislation Wednesday that would allow classroom teachers to carry more guns on school premises, Reuters reports.
Florida's Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill 65 to 47, and it will now be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis, who will likely sign the bill into law. School districts will now have the option of arming teachers who choose to complete 144 hours of training and undergo a psychological examination.
The bill expands the “guardian” program introduced in 2018, after a former student with a semiautomatic rifle opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The fatal incident left 17 students and staff dead, and injured 17 others. Legislators quickly passed the 2018 law in the wake of the shooting, which requires schools to have at least one armed staffer or law enforcement official present on campus, although firearms were still prohibited inside the classroom.
Certain school districts in some of the state's most populous districts have already voiced opposition to the bill, including officials in Broward and Palm Beach, per the NY Daily News. Prior to the bill's passage, school officials in 40 of the 67 counties in Florida have voluntarily signed up for the mandated course or expressed intent to do so.
"It allows the good guys to stop the bad. The bad guys will never know when the good guys are there to shoot back," Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan, a retired law enforcement officer said. "The guardian is the last line of defense. He or she will be there when a police officer is not."
Gun-control advocates argued that the bill is an overstep and introducing more firearms in schools is hardly a safety measure. Democratic legislators who voted against the bill's passage noted that accidental misfires are likely to increase, as are the risks posed to African-American students given the ways in which systemic racism has proven fatal countless times in the past.