One year after the Parkland High School massacre, the government in the United States has passed a new law to allow more teachers to carry firearms in class.
The killings at Parkland High School in Florida, where a former student killed 17 people in February 2018, continue to inspire new laws in U.S. courts. Two people were killed and four others injured on Tuesday during a shooting on the University of North Carolina’s campus; on Wednesday, a Republican majority voted in a new law allowing more teachers to carry firearms in class. The extension of a first law, allowing some teachers to be armed on campus – designated as school guardians (tutors and chaperones) – was approved in the wake of Parkland.
Florida has become the fifteenth state in the U.S. to adopt such a measure, supported by President Donald Trump and by the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby group. But it remains very controversial and is considered ineffective, even dangerous, by advocates of tighter gun control. Among their fights: they demand prohibition of automatic weapons; measures to seize weapons from individuals considered dangerous by the court; and strict background checks for those buying weapons, by establishing a national record.
The goal of the new law, to be officially announced by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, is to allow a swift and armed response to reduce reaction time by authorities in the case of intrusion by a school shooter. In some school districts, the law allows teachers to voluntarily arm themselves, after completion of a 140-hour weapons training course, a psychiatric evaluation and a drug screening test. Using traditional pro-gun rhetoric, Lake City Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan explained the purpose of this legislation: “It allows the good guys to stop the bad. The bad guys will never know when the good guys are there to shoot back. The guardian is the last line of defense. He or she will be there when a police officer is not.”*
Florida Democrats, most of whom voted against the law, instead say that introducing more weapons into schools increases the danger to students and to the teachers themselves. They did not fail to mention an incident that took place on Tuesday at a school in Pasco County, on Florida’s west coast: a police officer assigned to the security of the building accidentally fired on the wall of the cafeteria, without causing any injuries. “This is not the answer. Don’t put more guns in our schools,” emphasized Tampa Democratic Rep. Susan Valdes, who reminds us that there are “accidents [with firearms] everyday.”*
A Recipe for Tragedy
Teachers’ unions strongly opposed the law, as did school boards in Florida’s most populated counties, which have refused to participate in the program, preferring to leave the security of their schools to the police. But employees at schools in 40 of the 67 counties in the state have already signed up for training, according to a spokesperson for the president of the House. “Arming teachers is a recipe for disaster,” warned Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings, former chief of police for the city of Orlando. “The real solution is to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”*
The sheriff of Broward County, where Parkland High School is located, opposed the measure. The majority of big organizations in favor of tighter gun control, such as Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense or the Giffords Law Center, have criticized the law as “short-term,” saying it “does not make students less vulnerable at school.”* They recall the unpopularity of such a measure among Americans: “Seven out of 10 teenagers, eight out of 10 teachers, and seven out of 10 parents oppose it,”* according to a Giffords report. A study conducted by Quinnipiac University and published in March also showed that almost 60% of Florida voters are against it.
“Florida lawmakers, once again, have turned themselves into rubber stamps for the gun lobby,”* stated Nico Bocour, Giffords’s legislative director, in a condemning statement. “Classrooms should be safe havens for learning. This policy won’t prevent the tragic shootings that have become a sad reality in America: It will lead to more tragedy.”* The Giffords Law Center recalls that between 2014 and 2018, schools have seen more than 60 incidents caused by weapons on campus – at least one per month. The organization has documented cases, ranging from a student grabbing an officer’s weapon while the officer tried to subdue him, to a teacher accidentally shooting his firearm during a safety drill, to a teacher whose pistol fell from his waistband during a cartwheel.
*Editor’s note: These quotations, accurately translated, could not be independently verified.