Florida Republicans are once again, putting on a dog and pony show for the state’s gun owners. They’re doing that with SB 7030 which is being fast tracked and rushed through committee.
What exactly is SB 7030? Well, the Florida Senate states the following;
School Safety and Security; Requiring a sheriff to establish a school guardian program under a certain condition; requiring school districts to promote a mobile suspicious activity reporting tool through specified mediums; requiring the Commissioner of Education to review recommendations from the School Hardening and Harm Mitigation Workgroup; revising the duties of the commissioner to include oversight of compliance with the safety and security requirements of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act by specified persons and entities, etc.
In plain English, it throws money at the state’s schools to improve their security, places the schools under some level of oversight, and ostensibly removes the restrictions that currently ban teachers from carrying on school grounds.
It basically makes mandatory many of the provisions that were put in place on a voluntary basis by another Republican-authored bill last year (SB 7026), the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. That was the bill that gave Floridians a state-level bump stock ban, under-21 gun purchase restrictions, and a red flag laws.
Why is SB 7030 a feel-good do-nothing bill? Because it doesn’t change the fact that under SB 7026, certain non-teaching school staff were allowed to carry on school grounds only if two conditions were met; the local school board had to authorize it and teachers had to attend a 132-hour firearms course sponsored by the County Sheriff.
Well, the majority of Florida’s School Boards voted to not allow their staff to carry on their grounds and opted for school resource officers in stead.
The Sun Sentinel reported the following;
The proposal (SB 7030) would expand the state’s Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program created in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Named for an assistant football coach killed in the massacre, the program allows non-instructional employees to carry guns if they undergo training and pass a psychological evaluation.
Last year, state lawmakers opted not to include most classroom teachers on the list of school employees authorized to carry weapons.
State Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, said the Parkland shooter could have been stopped if a teacher had a gun.
“They were just sitting ducks — with no chance,” he said.
The bill’s sponsor — state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah — said districts will decide whether teachers should carry guns. School systems also have the option of stationing a law enforcement officer at each school, a costlier option.
There are a total of 67 school boards in Florida and less than 30% of them allow any staff to carry on campus. The majority of the districts that went with the Guardian Program are rural, underpopulated, and underfunded. They can’t afford to have a dedicated school resource officer on duty because the Sheriff’s offices in those counties themselves are underfunded and understaffed.
The major urban districts like Miami Dade or Leon would never allow armed teachers in their schools. The Miami Dade School Board has their own police department. In Leon County (Tallahassee), the board contracts out the school resource officer duties to city of Tallahassee Police Department and Leon County Sheriff’s Office.
If they wanted to actually accomplish something for gun owners, the Republican supermajority-controlled legislature could have instead fast tracked HB 175 or HB 6073, two bills that would have gutted the anti-gun provisions of SB 7026 that were passed after the Parkland shooting. Instead, they’re allowing those bills to languish in committee since House Speaker Jose Oliva is no fan of Second Amendment rights.
Or they could actually just pass campus carry or throw Florida gun owners a bone with permitted open carry. But that won’t happen either since the Senate President is Bill Galvano, the man who authored SB 7026 in the first place.
Instead, the one-time “Gunshine State” continues to slip behind others in the race to expand freedom.