FL Senate passes bill to allow teachers to carry guns, raise buying age to 21

The most high-profile bill in the Florida Legislature took an important step forward Monday.

“When I see bipartisan opposition, as opposed to bipartisan support, then I know that we are hitting nerves. We are going into areas that may not be in our comfort zone,” said state Senator Bill Galvano.

On Monday, the Florida Senate passed a controversial gun safety bill by a razor-thin margin of 20 to 18.

It would give schools more money to make buildings secure with metal detectors and bulletproof glass. And the purchasing age for rifles and long guns would increase to 21.

But the most talked about provision is the school marshal program which would train certain school employees to use and carry guns.

“I am of the firm belief that more guns is not a solution, and so I don’t want to see more guns being put in schools unless it is an armed deputy,” said Mark Castellano with the Lee County Teacher’s Association.

The plan is already receiving pushback from critics who say arming school staff is a dangerous proposal.

“This is not what teachers want to be doing, and it is a sad statement on our society that we have come to that point that this is even being considered,” Castellano said.

But proponents of the bill say keeping guns out of schools is just as dangerous.

“Schools have been gun-free zones for many many years in the United States and in the state of Florida. Along with clubs, and bars, and all kinds of government buildings, and frankly that’s where we see all the mass shootings,” said Jonathan Martin, chair of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee.

As the bill moves to the House for approval, both sides are locked in disagreement over how to keep schools safer.

“To me, if this takes place, it is simply a disaster waiting to happen. It’s not a matter of if it will, it’s a matter of when it will. And then who’s going to take responsibility for it?” Castellano said.

“I’m worried too. I’m worried there’s going to be another school shooting. And I’m worried that the same policies that we’ve had are going to allow that to happen,” Martin added.

A teacher who only works in a classroom couldn’t carry a gun, but other school staff or a teacher who also coaches would be allowed. The House still has to take up the bill before the legislative session ends Friday.

Reporter:Oliver Redsten
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