TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida lawmakers have voted to allow school boards to arm classroom teachers.
Twenty-five counties already allow school employees to carry a concealed weapon, and nothing in the legislation mandates teachers carrying guns.
The legislation enacts dozens of recommendations from the task force set up after the Parkland school shooting.
Yet the nearly three hour House debate focused on almost exclusively on one topic.
“Arming teachers with a gun is not the tool they need to educate our children," said Representative Susan Valdez.
Democrats railed against what they called limited training.
“Why do we believe a teacher with minimal weapons training, who’s never had to use their weapon, has the ability and marksmanship to take down an armed assailant armed with a semi-automatic rifle?" said Representative Adam Hattersley.
But Republicans shot back, pointing to the failure of the Parkland resource officer to engage the shooter.
“You could make a very credible argument that Deputy Peterson was the most highly trained SRO in the state of Florida," said Representative Spencer Roach.
Democrats pointed out that a deputy accidentally discharged his weapon in a Pasco school when they debated the bill Tuesday.
“I’ve misfired a weapon myself," said Representative Matt Wilhite. "I didn’t mean to do that, members. Mistakes happen.”
A 25-year law enforcement veteran called it the best deterrent available.
“This bill is the ultimate school hardening law. It allows the good guy to stop the bad. It allows the good guys to defend themselves and our children," said Representative Chuck Brannan, III. "The bad guy will never know when the good guy will be there to shoot back and remember the main thing: it’s going to be the deterrent effect.”
Democrats say unlike last year when there was a compromise, this bill was forced upon them. Five Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the legislation.
The legislation now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it.