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As Florida House Opens Schools to Guns, Lawmaker Declares Gun-Free Zones “The Most Dangerous Places in America”

| April 28, 2014

Neil Combee, the Polk County Republican, is among the Legislature's most forceful  pro-gun voices. (Mark Foley)

Neil Combee, the Polk County Republican, is among the Legislature’s most forceful pro-gun voices. (Mark Foley)

In a debate that showed sharp divisions about how best to protect children and teachers, the Florida House on Monday approved a bill that could lead to some public-school employees or volunteers carrying guns on campus.

House members voted 71-44 to approve the bill (HB 753), which would allow school districts to decide whether to designate people who could carry concealed weapons on schools grounds. Those people would have to be trained and have military or law-enforcement backgrounds.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who has long backed such proposals, said gun-free schools have become a “sterile target” that can be attacked by deranged people. The debate Monday included references to mass shootings at places such as a Newton, Conn., elementary school and at Fort Hood in Texas.

“Gun free zones are the most dangerous places in America,” said Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk City Republican and supporter of the bill. “We all know that. Whether it’s Fort Hood or the school shootings, most of the mass killings these days occur in these gun free zones.”

But critics said the state should instead spend money to put trained law-enforcement officers, known as school resource officers, on campuses throughout the state. At one point, Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, raised the specter of the bill leading to someone like “Barney Fife” — the bumbling character in the old “Andy Griffith” television show — having a gun on school grounds.

“We don’t need amateurs bringing guns to the fight,” Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said.

The vote was along almost straight party lines, with Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, crossing to join Republicans in supporting the measure.

It remains questionable, however, whether the Senate will pass the bill. The Senate’s version (SB 968) was approved by one committee last month but did not get heard in three other committees.

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would allow school superintendents, with the approval of their school boards, to designate people who could carry guns on school grounds. The designees could be honorably discharged veterans, active-duty members of the military or current or retired law-enforcement officers. They also would need to have concealed-weapons licenses and complete a school-safety program created by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.

Steube and other supporters said the bill could particularly help protect schools in rural areas. For example, Steube said police respond within six to 11 minutes to schools in suburban areas of Sarasota and Manatee counties but that the response times are longer in rural areas.

But Rep. Mark Danish, a Tampa Democrat and teacher, said people who tote guns on school grounds should be professionals.

“If we need this, which I think we might, then let’s spend the money,” Danish said.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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34 Responses for “As Florida House Opens Schools to Guns, Lawmaker Declares Gun-Free Zones “The Most Dangerous Places in America””

  1. Zito Offenheimer says:

    The important thing is to give the impression that there MAY be armed good guys at schools. The BG will be left to wonder who is armed and who isn’t.

  2. Steve Wolfe says:

    I would feel more assured of the safety of my grandkids with competent, armed staff present. Declaring schools as gun free zones actually advertizes vulnerability. Declaring schools to be drug free zones has not made them free of drugs, either. If anyone still believes in the practice of declaring zones free of something, why haven’t our governments declared global warming free zones and save us all? How about a fat free zone I could stand in and lose weight? Then I’d jog over to the poor free zone for a minute. The day wouldn’t be complete without visitng the sober free zone. Then I could head to my awake free zone.

  3. Sherry Epley says:

    OK. . . let’s think this through. . . just how many of the perpetrators of these school shootings are sane enough to spend time casing a place to make sure they can “get away” unharmed? Folks, they don’t want to get away! They are insane, intent on suicide, and unfortunately taking innocent children with them.

    Logic would tell any reasonable person that schools without armed guards are no more likely to attract the insane shooter than those with armed guards. Hummmm. . . maybe just the opposite. . . since they are trying to commit suicide!

    Consider the possibility that our state and country needs many more facilities for “long term” treatment of the mentally ill and that those who are insane should not have such ready access to murder weapons!

    • Anonymous says:

      If these killers are so “intent on suicide” then why are many of them, who certainly had the means to kill themselves, still alive? Their intent was to kill as many people as possible; you can’t kill anyone if you’ve just killed yourself. To try to argue that these people are so crazy they can’t think straight is also wrong. It is obvious in many cases they meticulously planned the attacks, and certainly considered whether or not they would meet any armed resistance. To cunning criminals in general, perception is everything. They prey on the weak and vulnerable because they know they will be less likely to be injured or captured. Likewise, if a mass shooter wants to do just that, they will look for soft targets, exactly like a school that is declared a “gun free” zone.

    • Outsider says:

      If these killers are so “intent on suicide” then why are many of them, who certainly had the means to kill themselves, still alive? Their intent was to kill as many people as possible; you can’t kill anyone if you’ve just killed yourself. To try to argue that these people are so crazy they can’t think straight is also wrong. It is obvious in many cases they meticulously planned the attacks, and certainly considered whether or not they would meet any armed resistance. To cunning criminals in general, perception is everything. They prey on the weak and vulnerable because they know they will be less likely to be injured or captured. Likewise, if a mass shooter wants to do just that, they will look for soft targets, exactly like a school that is declared a “gun free” zone.

  4. Geezer (personna non-grata here) says:

    The more guns are discussed and new laws proposed – the more they proliferate.
    Have you ever seen such a demand and histeria to buy guns and hoard ammo?
    Anti-gunners would do well to keep quiet – all they do is shoot themselves in the foot!
    Every time there’s talk of registration – gun stores prepare for a run on stock and crowded
    stores with cash registers singing along merrily.

    If you sell a particular item, a widget of some sort – call the president and ask him to
    discuss registering them and restricting them. Next thing you know, you’ll need
    wheelbarrows from all the panic sales to take your cash to the bank!

    Just a few years ago it was cool to collect guns, just like twenty years ago it was cool
    to ride a motorcycle. Now it’s a geriatric pastime. The coolness factor, the uniqueness –
    is looooooooooong gone. It’s played out like Puppy Love by Donny Osmond.

  5. A.S.F. says:

    The more guns there are around children, the more chance there is that guns will go off around children. Guns are not the solution to every problem imaginable, except in the minds of some people who think of the Wild Wild West as the good old days. Go ask the families of those slaughtered at Newtown and Adam Lanza’s surviving family members whether they feel more or less guns would have helped or prevented that tragedy. The Florida legislature has become a Tea party freak show. What a shame!

  6. confidential says:

    I am glad my kids have graduated 30 years ago and I do not have grandchildren… that will ever have to go to school! The Almighty knows better and has his ways. Meanwhile in the future maybe gun laws will be improved for our next generations and then children will be spared from fire arms massacres in school!

    • Rick" says:

      “The Almighty knows better and has his ways.”
      I’ve often thought about this unable to comprehend many situations. Then I take a step back in an attempt to observe the whole picture and frequently wonder ‘why’.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It must be driving the liberals crazy seeing people wanting to have the means to protect themselves. Liberals want the murders, robbers and muggers to have every advantage.

    • Bill Underwood says:

      Liberals want to keep terrorists from buying guns at gun shows and off the internet. Others don’t.

    • Nancy N. says:

      You need to stop drinking the Tea Party and Fox News Kool-Aid for a minute and return to reality.

      “Liberals” are not fire-breathing dragons, or evil plotting hunchback trolls from some movie, despite what Fox News would have you believe.

      Liberals are actually your neighbors and fellow citizens, who believe just as passionately as you do in reducing crime, and in ensuring the security of their families and neighborhoods. They just happen to disagree with you about what is the best way to do it. That doesn’t make them co-conspirators with criminals.

      If you actually stopped the pro-gun hysteria for a moment and looked rationally at some facts, you’d see that gun control advocates have some respectable pieces of research and statistics to back them up. We’re not crazies out on a limb. You just don’t happen to like our conclusions, is all.

      • J. says:

        And so do pro-gun individuals. FOR EXAMPLE: Harvard University (you are all aware of the status Harvard has in both medical education and legal education) and numerous others have done studies.
        The Harvard study found that countries like ours that enact strict gun control measures do more harm than good. Criminals by definition don’t give a rat’s hairy ass about the law, or if you live or die…hell most repeat violent offenders don’t care if they die. You’re telling me you wouldn’t want the weaker round of 5.56 or .223 that an AR-15 has when some criminal with no care to the sanctity of human life opens up with a 7.62 (AK-47)? I sure the hell would want an AR-15, and as many “high capacity” mags as I can get. I’m a trained EMT, and while I respect human life and in cases have fought to save it, I will NOT be a sitting duck and allow someone who doesn’t care if I live or die to kill me when I, by federal law (the second amendment of the US Constitution) have every lawful right to own as many weapons as I so chose. The Constitution is very very clear that that right “Shall not be infringed” which means that it is unlawful to restrict, however it has happened. But I don’t support further restrictions, nor the current ones but that’s beside the point.

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    A true story about having a gun around: On the morning of Monday 29th of January 1979, 16-year-old schoolgirl Brenda Spencer took the .22 calibre gun her father had given her as a Christmas present and aimed it at the school playground opposite her family home, killing two men and injuring eight children. This programme traces the bizarre events of that day and asks how and why they happened.
    She don”t like Mondays. It’s only remembered at all because of the song,

    A couple weeks ago, a kid with a knife went berserk at a school near Pittsburgh and stabbed 21 students and a security guard. I love guns, but think how bad this wpuold have been had this kid had access to one. Don”t just parrot the NRA line, think about the issue if you have any brains left after listening to Wayne and Rupert all these years.

  9. Genie says:

    Very interesting viewpoints and opinions being expressed here. Hopefully, we will always be entitled to have one and have the right to express it publicly.

    Wishing you good health, FlaglerLive!

  10. Steve Wolfe says:

    Violence is a sad fact of life and vulnerability invites agression. The less protection there is for children, the greater the likelihood that harm will come to children. Portraying responsible gun use as the “Wild Wild West” is foolish propaganda. If you choose hope that the police will protect you, just remember that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Meanwhile, go ahead and post a sign in your front yard alerting all the criminals that you regard your home a “gun free zone.” As for me, give me liberty (to protect myself), because someone is willing to give me death. Bravo to the Florida Legislature for this common sense approach.

  11. Anonymous says:

    lets load up on school resource officers at VPK’s, libraries, day camps and where ever there are children gathering than you will hear about the taxes.

  12. Anonymouse says:

    I’m a liberal and I own a number of pistols and assault rifles. I enjoy shooting, I have a CCW, and there is no way in hell I would want ANYONE that worked for or with the public educational system to be armed. That includes security guards and teachers.

    Here’s why. Look at the behavior of some of the “retired” (or fired) police officers here in the state, and look at the behavior of some of the teachers. Both professions are public relations nightmares, where you have a tendency to see the worst in people, and in the teaching profession you have the additional problem of just having to take disrespect. I am way, way more fearful that someone within the profession or that a former/current retired officer acting as security would lose control and shoot students than I am of a screwup doing it.

    comedy option: arm the students.

    • Someone Else says:

      Unless the “assault rifles” you own are fully automatic M4’s , AK-47 or similar then I think you may suffer from a misconception common among your fellow liberals, what you own are in fact modern sporting rifles, the main difference being that they are semi-automatic and can never be made to perform like a fully automatic assault weapon, the confusion generally arise from the rifles looking “scary” to those who do not understand the difference of the two.

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      By that logic, why should you be trusted with weapons? Just a thought. No disrespect intended.

      OH! That’s right— you have the protection of the 2nd Amendment, too. My bad.

      Just messin with ya. This is my serious thought:

      It is impossible in a free society to prohibit all bad things. Bad people will still find ways to harm others. Schools without resident armed security are sitting ducks for the next madman. I would prefer the children have the benefit of protection from known good guys with a history of professional conduct. The threat of in-house gun violence pails in comparison to the standing threat of deranged killers.

  13. Gia says:

    NO guns in schools period. Kids are there to learn. Some day he’ll be ok caral.

  14. Seminole Pride says:

    Maybe, I should apply to be a hall monitor. So, I can carry my heat, and protect our kids.

  15. Seminole Pride says:

    When I in School, guns were everywhere. We had in our gun racks in our trucks, to go hunting or target shooting after school. Both students and school carried guns in there trucks. it was a Southern culture. It’s not the guns, or respectable law abiding gun lovers, but the liberals and idiots that dont want us Americans to protect ourselves.

  16. Steve Wolfe says:

    Many, many more people die from automobile accidents than from lawfully owned guns. I don’t hear anyone proposing to ban automobiles. Many people can die from a single airline accident than the worst lone madman with a gun, yet I don’t hear anyone proposing that we all stop flying. One thing that history and human nature have taught us is that the more vulnerable people there are, the more bad guys will take advantage of them. The sickest among those bad guys will try to harm children, even in schools. I hope that the next such nutcase meets his fate before he gets off the first round. The only practical way to make that happen is by professionally trained and licensed armed good guys. Guns will not be banned, not in this lifetime. The only deterrent is equal or better force. Is there anyone willing to post a sign in their own yard that says, “Gun Free Home?” I thought not.

  17. bob fortier says:

    We have security with guns in hospitals, state offices, federal offices, and at universities. I think the idea that a decent adult with training would snap and kill students themselves is overblown by imagination and too much TV. Down the street from us was the Newtown School massacre. Now all the news is about gun control, instead of what it should be…nut control. If an armed security person was in that school the day of the Lanza shootings, not nearly as many people could have been shot. Instead, they were all sicking ducks. And for those who claim that even retired police officers can go crazy and kill inside the school they are supposed to be protecting, this hasn’t happened once in written history. Hey, if you are afraid of guns and think about all kinds of hypothetically scary possibilities, that is your problem.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @bob fortier says–Well, here’s a form of “nut control”, for you, Bob (since mental illnesses has existed since the beginning of human kind and always will): Let’s control the ease at which said “nuts” can get their hands on high-powered weapons, especially the ones that can fire off multiple rounds in extremely short periods of time without reloading. Otherwise, I am not sure what you exactly mean by “nut control.” Do you want Doctors to report everyone who brings themselves voluntarily to seek mental health treatment of any kind to some kind of authority? Do you want to go back to the days of “insane asylums” and lock everybody up that might seek treatment or do you propose that we lock people up indefinitely so that they (hopefully) can’t get their hands on the millions of guns we have floating around? Perhaps there are better ways of indicating how free a country we are than giving every Tom, Dick and Harry unlimited access to guns. It pretty much makes us look like Neanderthals/Yosemite Sams to the rest of the world–and for good reason. People who like their bumper stickers to say “It’s not the gun that’s the problem–It’s the individual WITH the gun that’ the problem.” conveniently forget the fact that the danger lessens once you take away the weapon–and let’s include the accidental injuries and deaths that result each year from our love affair with guns. People are sadly deluded if they believe that multiple firearms will save them in every real OR imagined situation. Do you know what most self-defense experts recommend in a dangerous situation? RUN AWAY! You might not feel as manly but you might have a better shot (no pun intended) at staying alive.

  18. Steve Wolfe says:

    I have never seen a gun float. I think those are specialty weapons made for Navy SEALS.

    And I don’t give a rat’s ass what the rest of the world thinks of us. This isn’t some kind of world-wide popularity contest. Many of them owe their freedom largely to the United States either directly or indirectly. I think it is cartoonish to believe that our freedom (including our safety in public) is entirely ensured by the police. (When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.) We are free because we can keep ourselves free, not because the Europeans “like” us.

    I still think that all liberals should put their money where their mouths are, and post a sign in your front yard stating, “Gun Free Home.”

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Steve Wolfe says–(1)Guns “floating” is a figure a speech and you know it.. Trying to make a point out of pure semantics just weakens your argument. (2) That attitude of “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the rest of the world thinks of us” is EXACTLY the sort of egocentric thinking that gets us into trouble in the first place. Think “Iraq.” America’s might does not always lie in us arrogantly thinking we are always right. Maybe we have something to learn from countries with a better attitude towards gun control. (3) Of course, the police are not always going to be around to protect us. That is why we need to use common sense. “Shoot First and think later” is not a prime example of common sense. (4) Of course, Liberals are not going to put up signs in their front yard stating, “Gun Free Home”…Not as long as people like you and other brain-washees of the NRA are working night and day to make sure that everybody and his brother has free access to guns–including those who might be likely to commit crimes with them.

  19. Anonymous says:

    By the way, Steve Wolfe–What do you think about the latest story about how the NRA is FIGHTING, fiercely, against the ability of gun store owners to sell the “smart gun”, which is a gun that can only be used by its registered owner?

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      On the surface it sounds fishy, but the devil’s in the details. I’m not a member and I don’t watch them that closely. We were disappointed in the state NRA rep for pushing against the bill to allow our law enforcement to refuse to participate with the feds in any future gun collections that they may dream up. But that’s politics.

  20. Sherry Epley says:

    The “small minded” comments here display an attitude of the thinking of too many US citizens who are so insecure and egocentric that they actually believe that our nation rules the world, but does not need to co-exist in it. This kind of “close minded” thinking and voting is creating the future down fall of our entire country.

    We all need to realize that we all live on a WORLD stage and that other countries are catching up. Some excel at educating their citizens, providing superior health care, creating a safer place to live a high quality of life, more focus on arts and culture, etc. While ours now has an almost non-existent middle class, high un and under employment, less protection for the career paths of employees, more influence by the lobbyists and money of “big business” and less influence by apathetic voters. Too many US citizens have become the drones of the political agendas of the likes of FOX and Limbaugh. We have stopped any kind of critical thinking . . . many of us may as well have rings through our noses. What a waste!

    We should all be doing our own research to become educated and wise enough to see through the agendas of those who value adding to their billions (kept in off shore accounts to avoid paying taxes in the USA), over human lives. The NRA doesn’t care about protecting us. . . they feed off the weak minded. . . creating mass fear to maximize the profits of gun manufacturers, pure and simple.

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      Yes, it is rather small minded of me to think that being the only super power makes us better than the rest, not to mention the number of people immigrating to the USA vs. the numbers departing. It would also be insecure to think that by providing the Navy that keeps the sea lanes open for free trade among all nations that we really are no better than any other. And being ready to provide relief to any nation on the planet that suffers a catastrophe of any kind, whether it be aid and comfort or force of arms, sure makes it sound like we just don’t co-exist, don’t play well with others. I’m right with ya there.

      So what is it that other nations are catching up to? Do you refer to our liberty? Our best in the world health care system? Our still vast middle class as a percentage of total population? Our quality of life which is better for our welfare recipients than for many working people in the 3rd world? Our innovation that sets the bar so high for others? A political system that regularly peacefully turns over per the wishes of its people? Our freedom of the press and assembly? Our economy? Most of these nations are able to spend more of their total expenditures on some things because they don’t have a military budget sufficient to keep themselves free from the aggression of a Vladimir Putin. They have relied on the USA’s might for that protection (think Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico). Good for them if in the meantime they make a little hay out of it.

      Our political system is a huge mess, but it’s the mess we have because we allow it. Lack of awareness is a big culprit. Too many young people can’t name the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House, or quote anything James Madison ever said. And they vote. Be ready to accept the world they vote for.

      Both political parties have their deep-pockets sweethearts. It’s a fact of life and it isn’t illegal for them to participate. The reason there are voices from the right in the media is because there is a market for them. The majority of what passes for news is agendized also. And you can find weak minded people in all walks of life. You will never fix that. That’s just another unfortunate manifestation of liberty that many people don’t give a damn. And lest you think otherwise, no, I am not trying to fix you. Just saying my piece of small-minded right-wingnut paranoia, which I haven’t taken much time to research for myself because it makes my small mind hurt. Can’t wait to buy my next gun.

  21. Sherry Epley says:

    Military might is not the only measure of a powerful/healthy nation! Not to confuse anyone with actual facts and statistics:

    This article from the NY Times clearly shows how the size of our middle class and per capita income is shrinking compared especially compared to Canada, and also other first world countries:

    The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics clearly indicates that our citizens are not as healthy as those in other countries although we spend almost 18% of our GDP on those services. . . compared to countries like France, the UK, Canada, Germany who spend about 11%. For example, if you take the time, you will see on the WHO web site the following life expectancy numbers:

    USA 76 yrs Males/ 81 Women
    France 79/85
    Germany 78/83
    Switzerland 81/85
    Canada 80/84
    UK 79/83

    Regarding literacy in the USA, we could and should be doing much better:

    According to a study conducted in late April 13 by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.

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