Florida gun control advocates oppose Parkland shooting panel's recommendation to arm teachers


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Florida gun control advocates are opposing a recommendation made by the state panel investigating the Parkland high school shooting to arm teachers with concealed weapons on campus.

The public safety commission released a draft report Wednesday outlining some of the failures that allowed a gunman to kill 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, as well as policy fixes, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Pushed by its chairman, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the panel voted 13-1 on a proposal to allow volunteering classroom teachers who go through training to carry guns. Currently, school districts in Florida can opt into "guardian programs" to arm some school employees – though teachers who exclusively perform classroom duties are not eligible. The lone dissenting vote on the proposal came from Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex Schachter, was killed in the school shooting.

"We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves," Gualtieri said, according to the Associated Press. "One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough."

But gun control advocates maintain that arming teachers is "a bad idea."

"There are liability issues, increased costs to school districts, workplace shootings, and the threat of unintentional gun discharges (which we continue to see) that school districts must confront if school personnel are armed," the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence said in a statement. "Intense training is needed to confront an active shooter – and without harming any other people – in buildings filled with staff, students and visitors."

The coalition points to an FBI report analyzing active shooter events between 2000 and 2013. Out of 160 incidents reviewed, about 13 percent were stopped by unarmed civilians who restrained the shooter. Only about 3 percent of active shootings were stopped by armed individuals who were not law enforcement officers. The majority of the shootings (about 56 percent) ended when the shooter committed suicide, stopped shooting or fled the scene.

"Unarmed school staff have stopped more active shooters than civilians with guns," the coalition said. "Instead of arming teachers, whose only job should be to teach our children, we call on the Legislature and Governor-Elect DeSantis to allocate proper and recurring funding for programs that include much-needed counseling and intervention services for young people along with de-escalation techniques and better environmental designs for Florida's schools. … There needs to be a discussion about easy access to weapons – especially military-style assault weapons, which the MSD shooter used and is the choice of mass shooters in America. The solution to violence in our schools cannot be adding more guns."

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, whose district includes Parkland, added that while he appreciated the state commission's work, he found the recommendation to arm teachers "concerning."

"Teachers want to teach, not be armed for combat in their classrooms," Deutch said in a statement. "Law enforcement cannot push their responsibilities to make our communities safer on to civilians that should be focused on educating their students."

Deutch called for state lawmakers to implement new standards that will promote school safety and consider stronger gun laws.

"We cannot ignore the role that easy access to the most dangerous firearms played in the worst school shooting in our state’s history," Deutch said. "The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act made important changes to our gun laws, including raising the minimum age for buying a gun and creating a red-flag law for law enforcement. But there is more we must do to strengthen our gun laws to make it harder for potential killers to access firearms, especially assault rifles – the weapon of choice of mass shooters."

Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.