TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — More Florida teachers will be eligible to carry guns in the classroom under a bill Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Wednesday that immediately implements recommendations from a commission formed after the Parkland high school mass shooting.
DeSantis signed the bill in private and didn’t issue a statement afterward. But he made it clear he supports the changes made to the law enacted after a rifle-toting former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people in February 2018.
The bill was one of the most contentious of the legislative session that ended Saturday. It expands the “guardian” program that allows school districts to approve school employees and teachers with a role outside the classroom, such as a coach, to carry guns. School districts have to approve, and teachers have to volunteer. They then go through police-like training with a sheriff’s office and undergo a psychiatric evaluation and a background check.
The new law expands the program to make all teachers eligible regardless of whether they have a non-classroom role.
Democrats spent hours arguing against the bill, saying it could lead to accidental shootings, or that a teacher could panic and fire during a confrontation with students. Republicans emphasized that the program is voluntary, and that law enforcement in some rural districts could be 15 minutes or more from a school if a shooter attacks.
Broward County, where the Parkland shooting took place, has rejected the program.
The measure also contains a number of other school safety measures, such as wider disclosure of certain student mental health records and mental screening of troubled students. It also mandates greater reporting of school safety and student discipline incidents and a requirement that law enforcement officials be consulted about any threats.