Florida Bill Would Block Funding to Arm Teachers

A Congresswoman has re-introduced a bill that would prevent the Trump administration from using anti-terrorism funds to purchase guns for teachers. US Representative Val Demings (D-Fla.) announced on Monday that she has re-introduced The Secure Communities and Safe Schools Act, which would hinder the use of Homeland Security and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant money to buy educators firearms.

“Arming teachers is a recipe for disaster — a reckless plan which will complicate active-shooter situations, as well as forcing teachers to take on not only the responsibility but also the hurt, pain, guilt, and liability when they find themselves out-skilled and out-gunned — with our children in the crossfire,” Demings said in a statement. “As a 27-year law enforcement officer, the solution is simple: not more guns in classrooms, but laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Demings said many teachers in Florida are against putting guns in their classrooms. In addition to teachers been underpaid and overworked, adding firearms into the classroom would be “one more burden they should not be forced to bear,” she noted. “The new terrorism-prevention dollars that we won for Orlando should be used to help law enforcement and first responders, not put a loaded gun between our children and their teacher,” Demings said.

Demings introduced the bill last year and it passed the House Homeland Security Committee. However, the Florida Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow teachers to carry guns in classrooms, Reuters reported. The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill with a 65 to 47 vote, according to the publication. Once Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signs the bill into law, school districts can take part in a program that would arm educators who pass a 144-hour training course, according to Reuters. The program was launched after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018, which left 17 dead and more than a dozen injured after a gunman entered the school with a semiautomatic rifle, to prevent another school shooting. In August, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reportedly considered a plan that would allow states to use federal funds to buy guns for teachers, according to The New York Times.

Demings said in her statement that 50 percent of Floridians oppose teachers carrying guns on school property. Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president, told The North Star that she questioned how arming teachers would work. She said lawmakers who push to have firearms in schools do not understand teachers.

“Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom now going to have a gun closet? Will it be locked? When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety? Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn’t understand teachers and doesn’t understand our schools,” Weingarten said. “Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.