State lawmakers push to arm school staff

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - State lawmakers have scheduled a hearing for Monday afternoon for the first discussion of new school safety and firearm legislation.

The legislation, however, does not include the one thing that drove thousands to protest at the Capitol Wednesday.

The emerging school safety plan calls for more firepower in schools, patterned after the Sentinel Program in Polk County. It calls for well trained, armed school personnel to be the first line of defense.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is leading the negotiations.

“This isn’t just a situation of arming teachers. This is a program that is run through the sheriff’s department on a voluntary basis, wherein someone who seeks to become deputized has a psych[ological] eval[uation] and 132 hours of training," said Galvano.

The legislation will be a souped-up version of legislation debated since Sandy Hook.

Under the plan, police would have more power to take guns from the mentally disturbed without a declaration of incompetence. Sheriffs said this week current law ties their hands.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “We need the authority to take their weapons, to take the guns away from them that they have just threatened to hurt somebody with and we can’t do that today.”

In a meeting with legislative leaders late Wednesday, the Governor reportedly said he was willing to give any tax cuts this year if the money was needed for school safety.

But the proposals don’t do what thousands asked for this week: gun control.

Democrats will keep trying for a ban on assault-style rifles.

Senator Oscar Braynon said, "We believe that’s the solution. None of this happens without that.”

Lawmakers say policy decisions will drive cost, not the other way around.

Other features included more power to take guns from people evaluated under the Baker Act, raising the age for assault rifle purchases, and requiring a three-day cooling off period.