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Florida legislators take steps to arm teachers — despite opposition from school shooting survivors

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where staff and teachers are preparing for the return of students. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Florida legislators took steps Tuesday to arm teachers — despite opposition from the Republican governor of the state, Rick Scott, and residents of the town where 17 people were shot to death at a high school on Feb. 14.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees voted to approve bills that create a new program to arm teachers in classrooms, though details were different in the pieces of legislation. The Tampa Bay Times quoted Rep. Jose Oliva (R) as calling teachers with guns “the last line of defense.”

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The House bill creates a “school marshal” program that would cost $67 million, most of it to be used for training, and would allow teachers to carry weapons in districts where the school board of superintendent supports it. That legislation also put new limits on gun purchases; it imposes a three-day waiting period and raises the age for anyone to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

It also provides $400 million to, among other things, put school resource officers in every public school and shore up mental-health counseling.

Florida residents pushed leaders in Tallahassee to pass a school safety bill Feb. 27, nearly two weeks after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The Senate bill says a district can adopt the “school marshal” program if the sheriff and school district officials both agree. The full Florida House and Senate would have to agree to the same program for these initiatives to become law.

President Trump has called for arming teachers, though Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have said they oppose the idea. Residents of Parkland and survivors of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were at the House hearing, urging legislators not to go through with a plan to arm teachers.

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The Tampa Bay Times quoted Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of geography teacher Scott Beigel, who died in the shootings while protecting students, as saying that giving guns to teachers will not make schools safer. “It could easily cause additional chaos and fatalities,” she said, noting that if a policeman entered a school where a live shooter was present, an armed teacher could be unintentionally shot.