HB 1097, which would permit school principles to designate a district employee to carry a concealed weapon on campus, is heading to the House Floor despite opposition from the Florida School Boards Association, Association of School Administrators, the PTA and ACLU.
Rep. Greg Steube, sponsor of the bill, filed it in response to the Newtown school shooting last year, feeling that had an armed school employee been on campus it might have changed the tragedy.
There may also be a preventive aspect to this measure. Many feel that the known gun-free status of school zones makes them more vulnerable to threats. This bill would send a message to would-be aggressors that they could be met with greater resisistance.
“It would be a good deterrent,” said Steube. “The bad guys aren’t going to know how many or who’s carrying in a school. They don’t know if nobody is designated or if 10 people are designated.”
School officials disagree, feeling that the best measure for school safety is to have “an officer, deputy or marked car out in front of every school”, according to Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.
Funding for achieving this worthy goal remains an issue. In Hillsborough County, the addition of 130 armed officers to cover every school had a price tag of $4.1 million per year.
Steube’s measure would require designated employees to undergo the same firearms training and background checks that it takes to become an armed security guard, and would require them to renew their training and certifications annually.
While this measure passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11-7 and heads to the House floor, its Senate companion has not been heard yet in any committee.