Floridians could start carrying concealed guns in public schools and in churches if two new bills make their way through the Florida Legislature this year.
On Wednesday, the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee passed HB 621, a proposal which would allow designated individuals to carry firearms on elementary, middle, secondary and postsecondary school campuses.
Under HB 621, School principals or school superintendents would select the designees, who would complete 40 hours of training and four hours of firearm proficiency training from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Teachers, employees and volunteers could all be considered for the position.
Designees would also be required to undergo active shooter training to prepare themselves in case of a life-threatening emergency on public school campuses.
The weapon or firearm must be carried on the designee’s person at all times while the designee is performing his or her official school duties.
Opponents of the measure argued gun violence in schools is usually the result of escalating conflicts in the presence of firearms and expressed concerns about putting guns in Florida schools.
“I know we can all agree that schools should be safe places for our kids to learn. Stories from around the country and an overwhelming body of research both show that putting guns in classrooms is dangerous – full stop,” said Gay Valimont, Volunteer Leader with the Florida Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Melissa Franklin, a mother of two, came to Tallahassee to testify against the measure, expressing concerns about an influx of guns around the state.
“The facts show over and over again that more guns make us less safe,” Franklin said.
Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, who sponsored the measure, said the bill aimed to prevent violence by students and let them know they would be “met with resistance” if they carried guns on campus — and asserted HB 621 would make students safer.
“We demand [the schools] to keep our children safe yet we don’t give them tools to keep them safe when evil comes upon the door,” he said.
Members supporting the bill said the legislation would help protect students in potentially deadly situations.
“Do we sit there call 911 and watch helplessly as our friends and loved ones are getting shot to death or do we have something implemented in place that may allow for some counteraction to take place?” Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Naples asked.