After a former student stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a semiautomatic rifle and killed 17 people – wounding 17 more – legislators began working on legislation to allow teachers to be armed in the classroom. The bill has now been passed, and teachers will be able to participate in voluntary Guardian training, enabling them to be armed at school.
School districts throughout Florida now have the option to participate in the Guardian program. According to a report by the Daily Mail, teachers who pass a 144-hour firearms training course will be able to carry guns in the classroom.
The bill was passed by Florida’s House of Representatives on Wednesday with a vote of 65 for and 47 against. Debate over the legislation took place over the course of two days, with members of the Republican majority stymying the efforts of Democrats who were trying to have the bill stalled, amended, or killed.
The Florida Senate approved the bill – with a vote of 22 to 17 – last week.
President Donald Trump and representatives from the National Rifle Association (NRA) have both argued that schools could defend against shooters more effectively by arming teachers.
While Parkland students have taken part in numerous protests favoring increased gun control, Florida lawmakers moved forward with legislation to require schools to have a minimum of one armed staff member or one armed law enforcement officer on campus.
That law allowed firearms on school grounds, but they were still prohibited inside of the classrooms.
Backers of the new legislation had argued that school shootings often erupt quickly and that law enforcement may not be able to respond fast enough to prevent people from being killed or injured.
Opponents expressed concerns that increasing the number of firearms in schools could have consequences, including higher levels of gun violence, teachers misfiring during an incident, or police accidentally shooting armed teachers if they mistook them for the assailant.
In anticipation of the bill passing, school employees in 40 Florida counties have already enrolled in the Guardian program or plan to take part. Some of Florida’s remaining 27 counties have already made it known that they do not intend to participate.