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Florida School Massacre Panel Considers Arming Teachers

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The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre has recommended that teachers volunteer undergo extensive background checks and training to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted 13-1 to recommend the legislature allow the arming of teachers, saying it’s not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards in campus.

Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead allows districts to arm non-teaching staff members such as principals, librarians and custodians — 13 of the 67 districts do, mostly in rural parts of the state.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission’s chairman, took the measure at the Tallahassee meeting. He recalled that most deaths in school shootings happen within the first few minutes, before officers can respond. He said suspect Nikolas Cruz stopped to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle five times, all of which would have been opportunities for an armed teacher to shoot him.

“We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves,” Gualtieri said. He said there aren’t enough officers or money to hire one for every school, but even then officers need backup. “One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.”

The state teachers union and PTA have previously expressed opposition, saying teachers are hired to educate, not be police officers.

Commissioner Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex died in the massacre, cast the lone vote against the motion. He said the state should focus on hiring more police officers for campuses and allowing non-teaching staff to carry guns.

“We do need more good guys with a gun on campus — nobody understands that and wishes we had more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas than myself,” Schachter said. But arming teachers “creates a host of problems.” The father and wife of other victims, who are not on the commission, also spoke against arming teachers.

Post Florida incident, the law allowed school districts to train and arm employees other than teachers except those who are former or current police officers, current members of the military or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors.

As of now, teachers in 28 states can carry firearms, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, a conservative non-profit organization. District approval is required in most states and restrictions and training requirements vary.

The 15-member commission has been meeting regularly since April and will be submitting a report to Gov. Rick Scott, incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislature by January 1. The commission includes law enforcement, education and mental health professionals, a legislator and the fathers of two slain students.