Every Florida school could have an employee carrying a concealed gun, under a bill a House education panel approved Wednesday. The bill is a reworked version of an armed-teachers bill that died in the Florida Legislature last year. Both are a response to the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and an effort, one lawmaker said, to provide “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Like last year’s bill, this year’s is controversial, though opponents said the 2014 version was much improved.

The House bill (HB 753) would allow districts to have at least one “school safety designee” on each campus. That person would carry a concealed gun but would first need to meet firearm and school safety training requirements. To be tapped, that person would have to be an active duty or retired military or law enforcement or licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said previous laws that made schools “gun-free zones” were well intended but inadvertently left schools defenseless, if a “monster” got on campus.

“They don’t even have a water pistol in which to charge the gates of hell…to confront this monster,” he said.
“I think it’s time to embrace this,” he added. “Firearms save people’s lives. That’s why policemen carry them.”

The bill passed with strong support from the House education k-12 subcommittee’s Republican leadership.

But Democrats on the panel said their local school districts did not support the legislation.

“They’re saying arming administrators and teachers does not guarantee any more safety in the school system than what is in there now,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach.

But Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, said it was a “creative solution” to school safety worries and provided “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, the bill’s sponsor said it would allow “properly trained individuals” to help defend students. Schools would not have to create the new armed “designee” program, however.

But Steube said it could help those campuses that feel vulnerable. “Let’s give ourselves the Constitutional and God-given rights to defend ourselves.”

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