After hours of intense debate on a school-safety measure, Senate Democrats were unable Saturday to strip a controversial provision that would allow specially trained teachers to bring guns to schools or to add an assault-weapons ban demanded by survivors of last month’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school.
Democrats spent the rare Saturday floor session trying to amend the sweeping bill, hurriedly crafted by Republican leaders in response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.
But outnumbered 23-15 in the Senate, and even with the frequent support of two Republicans, Democrats were only able to make marginal changes to the bill (SB 7026) aimed at making schools safer and keeping guns away from mentally ill people.
Much of the debate in the week since Republican leaders rolled out the package has centered on a proposed “school marshal” program. That program would allow specially trained teachers and other school workers, who would be deputized by local sheriffs, to carry guns to school.
Gov. Rick Scott is among critics — including the PTA, the union representing teachers, and many parents and students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High — who oppose the proposition.
Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who is chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, pleaded with senators to support an amendment that would have removed the marshal program from the bill, saying that it would further endanger minority children who are at risk of gun violence.
Black parents already must have “the talk” with their children about how to avoid getting into confrontations with law enforcement officers and how to keep interactions with police from escalating, Thurston said. That talk will have to begin earlier if teachers are allowed to be armed, he predicted.
“We can’t agree to that. No type of way. No form. No shape. This is a non-starter,” he said.
The Senate plan and a similar House proposal would allow school boards to decide whether they want to implement the marshal program. If school boards opt for the program, the House proposal would require sheriffs to participate, while the Senate proposal would not.
While being grilled by Democrats, Sen. Bill Galvano, the bill’s sponsor, said that the school-marshal plan “hasn’t just been drawn out of the air,” but was based on other programs in Florida and across the country.
“We’re seeking to transform school security in the state of Florida,” said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who will take over as Senate president in November.
The marshal program would exist “in a new state of affairs,” based on other components of the bill, such as a new Office of School Safety within the Department of Education and requiring school-safety specialists and threat-assessment teams at the local level.
The legislation includes broad outlines for the marshal program, including the requirement of at least 132 hours of training and psychological screening, but would leave up to sheriffs and school districts details such as what types of guns could be used and where they would be stored, Galvano said.
That means parents, students and others would have no way of knowing which teachers might be armed, Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said.
“We will have no clue in 67 counties in this state of what this marshal program looks like,” Gibson said. “We don’t need additional guns in schools. You don’t add fuel to a fire that’s already burning. It’s burning just fine on its own.”
But Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson argued that allowing teachers to carry guns would make students safer.
“We are many colors in this chamber. I would want a teacher to have the opportunity to stop an evil person from slaughtering children,” Simpson, R-Trilby, said. “But the only thing that’s going to stop a slaughter, in that moment, is if it’s fortunate enough to have a person in that room with a firearm. And the marshal program provides an opportunity, not a guarantee, for that to be done.”
The House and Senate packages have faced pushback from politicians on both ends of the gun-control spectrum.
Many House Republicans and the National Rifle Association are opposed to proposed regulations that would raise age requirements from 18 to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period for the purchase of rifles and other long guns. Proposals would also allow law enforcement officers to seize weapons from people who pose a danger to themselves or others and ban the sale of what are known as “bump stocks,” an idea also opposed by the NRA.
Democrats are frustrated because the proposals fail to include a ban on assault-style weapons such as the semi-automatic rifle used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after the nation’s second-worst school shooting.
Survivors of the shooting, parents of slain students and high schoolers from across the state have flooded the Capitol since the Valentine’s Day shooting, with the vast majority seeking a ban on assault weapons.
The students asked lawmakers “to do one thing: make school shootings and assault weapons a thing of the past,” said Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat who offered an amendment Saturday that sought to ban them.
“Assault weapons are really killing machines. They are not rifles, and they are not guns that we use to protect our homes and go hunting,” she said at the end of an hour-long debate on her amendment.
Immediately after the amendment failed in a 20-17 vote, Senate President Joe Negron ordered a moment of silence as requested by Scott for the entire state on the 17th day after the 17 Parkland students and faculty were killed.
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, a member of the black caucus, conceded Saturday that the ban on assault weapons was “too divisive” for the GOP-dominated Legislature.
“It splits us down the middle, and it’s not the time to do that right now. This is the time to come together,” Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said.
But he beseeched his colleagues to support a proposed amendment doing away with the marshal program, saying lawmakers need more time to explore the issue.
“This is an important piece of legislation that we’ve put together in a week. We can all get behind (it) if we don’t have something like this in it that splits us down the middle,” Braynon said. “Why would we take this moment when we need to come together … to almost tear us apart as a body?”
After nearly eight hours of debate on the attempted amendments, Sen. Tom Lee proposed removing the most-controversial portions of the bill: the marshal program and the new restrictions on the purchase of long guns.
Lee, a former Senate president, said lawmakers have consensus on two issues — keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people and school hardening.
The “gun control and that marshal plan are for a bumper sticker in November,” Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said.
“They’re going to do nothing. Neither one of them,” he said. Lee’s proposal to remove the issues failed.
–Dara Kam, news Service of Florida
Buck Troesch says
What a bunch of overpaid wimps. No one needs an assault weapon unless they serve in our Armed Forces or a Law Enforcement Agency. Shame on the Florida legislature for failing to act and ban assault weapons. Maybe there children will be impacted by the next deranged person who decides to shoot up a school and kill students, teachers and staff.
Why does anyone need assault weapons? Wake up !
I’d like to see a list of the politicians who voted to ALLOW assault weapons and business as usual. The list will go with me to the voting booth at election time. There is no sense in owning assault weapons unless the intention is to kill and/or maim as many people as possible.
This country does not need a weapons ban.
The weapon , any weapon is merely a tool no better or worse than the PERSON who uses it.
As far as raising the age requirement for purchasing that’s another sham. If our kids can sign up and serve in the military at 18, get a license at 16, and vote at 18. Then change the age requirement for all to match the drinking age.
I mean if we can’t expect an 18 yr old to be trusted with one thing, than it should be manditory 21 age requirement for everything else.
I’d bet the deed to my house that if all teachers were to wear an assault weapon with an extended cartridge plus a harness with 5 more cartridges attached to the shoulder strap on their person while attending school, that would put a COMPLETE end to ANY active shooter situations. Then the school board would have to make sure that ALL of the teachers aren’t psychological nuts who would turn the weapons against the school one day if they wake up on the wrong side of the bed or had an argument with their spouse that morning and take it out on the school.
I strongly support the senates decision thank you Florida!
So now we know. The problem isn’t guns, it’s NRepublicAns. They’ll have the blood of all future mass murder victims on their hands. Shame on them.
We have our cause now. It is the demise of the NRepublicAn Party in November. Ride the Blue Wave. End the madness!
@When I want your opinion I’ll fake it for you
This is where Florida Republicans and the NRA wanted the public’s mind – only days before the Parkland massacre:
Florida Political Ad Uses Trump-Tested Techniques to Denounce Sanctuary Cities
“Late last month, Florida House Speaker and potential gubernatorial candidate Richard Corcoran released an ad that many say is fanning the flames of xenophobic, anti-immigrant fears…”
“…As the Tampa Bay Times reported, the ad was created by Jamestown Associates, a conservative political advertising firm based in New Jersey and with satellite operations in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In the past, the firm has done work for Republican candidates such as Chris Christie, Charlie Baker and President Donald Trump himself.
The firm’s former executive vice president — Jason Miller — served as the digital and communications adviser to Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign, and then went on to become the Trump campaign’s senior communications adviser, eventually earning a spot on Trump’s transition team after the election.
Miller gained national attention when he reportedly declined Trump’s offer to be his communications director after reports of an alleged affair between him and another member of the transition team.
The ad — titled “Preventable ”— was paid for by Watchdog PAC, the political action committee founded by Corcoran whose mission is to “advocate for conservative public policies” and provide support for candidates “who share Richard Corcoran’s vision of strong conservative leadership for Florida…”
I saw that hateful crap when it aired and got the tag number from its gone-before-you-can-remember fine print that appears for about one second at the bottom of the screen in the last second of the ad.
The weasels behind this ad had the measure of trump voters long before 2015:
REPUBLICANS’ BLUE-COLLAR ACT
BY BEN ADLER ON 10/7/10
“…But it’s hard to cater to voters’ economic anxieties when your agenda is focused on tax cuts for the rich and your candidates are the guys who would reap the big benefits from said tax cuts. Such is the challenge facing the party in West Virginia, where the party nominated John Raese, who runs a steel and limestone company, to the Senate, and in Ohio, where GOP nominee John Kasich served as a managing director of Lehman Brothers until its dissolution in 2008.
What’s the way around this conundrum? Get real authentic blue-collar locals to make your pitch for you. And that’s what Republicans have done…”
Republicans Fire Ad Firm For “Hicky” Casting Call
By STEPHANIE CONDON CBS NEWS October 14, 2010
“…Today, however, Wickline provided Politico with an e-mail to show that she took the phrase “hicky blue collar look” directly from Jamestown Associates.
The NRSC said today that this is the first it has heard of Jamestown Associates’ role in the controversy.
“When originally confronted last week, [Jamestown Associates] flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language and we took them at their word. Upon learning these facts this morning, the NRSC immediately fired Jamestown Associates,” NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh said in a statement. “Because we did not know the truth, we have made incorrect statements over the last eight days, and we regret doing so.”
Walsh continued, “The NRSC unequivocally denounces the offensive language that Jamestown Associates used in producing this ad. We apologize to any West Virginia voter who may have been offended by this firm’s actions, and we extend our apologies to Kathy Wickline and all those who were misled as a result of Jamestown Associates’ actions. The NRSC will have no further dealings, now or ever, with Jamestown Associates, but they were our vendor and we take responsibility for this unfortunate matter.”
The NRSC has already pulled the ad from the air in West Virginia…”
Time heals nothing, so the NRepublicanA counts on you to not know – and/or not remember. We can do better.
Cowards no one needs assault rifles
Teachers, armed or not will now be the first target by a mass murderer.
I really think that there are folks, teacher or in another field of work who are not comfortable with guns.
It is insulting to think a teacher would be a danger to a student, especially a minority student. Who thinks like that in this country? Have the drums of racism become so loud that all rational thought is out the window? Shame on us all. Perhaps THAT is our problem. All teachers and school employees put the welfare of their students above all else. You are not talking about arming all teachers, or any teachers, unless they are specially trained and work with the police.
Our culture is sick, and guns are not the problem here. It is the culture. And it must be changed inside these schools or nothing will keep them safe.
Are we a dmocrocy or a dictatorship of special interests?
“Assault weapons are really killing machines., same as a car or a truck or a nut with a bomb. It still takes a person to operate all that are listed. Guns do not fire themselves, a person has to operate it in an assaulting manner.
Idiot politicians, it’s not an assault weapon, take time and research the word in the ATF . The last time I read it , it said fully automatic one squeeze of the trigger so ban the AR and when u still have more school shootings than what, just keep chipping away at the 2nd until your guns are decrease to a red Ryder BB rifle, let’s forget about the dysfunctional families the broken marriages mental illness, the drugs the alcohol lets forget about all that because that’s not really the problem the AR rifle is
Born and Raised Here says
Growing up here in Florida, I was given my first gun at 12 years old. Prior to that I went through intensive training by my parents on being a gun owner, and how to use my gun. The only use for my gun was for target practice and weekly hunting trips during hunting season. There wasn’t a day that went by that my folks, who were avid hunters didn;t educate me on how to handle my gun. and proper upkeep. Once again I say it’s not the gun, but it’s how much education and training the indiviual has in handling his gun. I encourage that everyone should be educated and train before they become an owner of a gun.
Michael Bolchunas says
Good job, now teachers who conceal carry against school policy don’t have to worry about going to jail after saving someone… And let’s be honest, you try to take away those automatic weapons already sold… Good luck, everyone will just “lose” them…
John Yankovich says
Some how we have to find a way to stop non-NRA members from shooting up schools!!!
Lunacy Reigns in our Florida legislature!
When the police roll up to a school shooting and they see an adult wielding a gun. . . just how in the hell are they going to know it’s a “GOOD GUY TEACHER”???? What? Is everyone going to wear “Good Guy” and “Bad Guy” tee shirts?
Lunacy. . . Sheer Lunacy!!!
VOTE THEM OUT!!!
If you don’t like THE 2ND AMENDMENT…..then try to vote it OUT. As usual liberals do not understand average Americans.
Edith Campins says
Insanity. And more proof that these politicians are owned by the NRA. Vote them out.
If the teachers are armed what type of weapon will they have, a sling shot or maybe a bee bee gun. If the perp uses an assault weapon what do you expect from the teachers throw their weapon at the perp?
r&r, you know if the teachers has had training and can handle stress when they hear shooting, one shot to the body is all that is needed, but I would say 99% of the teachers will fold under the pressure of hearing shots. Let the professionals handle the gunman not teachers.
To Born and Raised Here. Indeed the key is being trained and be familiar with guns. I found out that the easiest way is to use Snap Caps (bullet look-alike). Let the children play with guns using Snap Caps. That would satisfy their curiosity with guns and get a safe introduction with such weapons.
I think in the case of mass murderer Nikolas Cruz, a lot of students and neighbors already knew that he is trouble, present and future but he was not confronted because he has lots of weapons and the trouble he created is not enough to be convicted. The State of Washington has empowered the police now to confiscate weapons from a person deemed potentially dangerous immediately. It was in the news but I forgot the exact words used.
Iva hadit says
Time to vote these idiot Republicans OUT!
Florida voter says
@Anonymous March 5, 2018 at 5:30 am
Soooo .. the M16A2 and the M1 Carbine are NOT assault rifles, but the M4A1 is? I’ve said before that the definition of “assault rifles” is vague, and it’s hard to give “assault rifle” a well-defined common sense meaning.
I can’t imagine that any level-headed person would say that the US Army’s primary rifle isn’t an “assault rifle.”
To Layla, indeed the insertion of that intimation that teacher poses a danger to minority student is provocatively divisive. It’s like planting a seed of distrust in this atmosphere of unease and anger. Let us beware !
I certainly hope the funding source to pay for all this added security comes from a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition and not from the taxes of all Floridians. Cigarette smokers pay taxes to support smoking cessation programs, alcohol users pay tax to support the negative effects of drunk driving and gun owners should pay to provide security from the unsafe weapons of mass destruction that they support allowing be owned in our society. The burden should be on the constituency who supports the stupidity of allowing military assault style weapons in our society.
Aside from all of the debate regarding the merits vs dangers of a “school marshal program, I have one question: Did Sen. Bill Galvano get permission from the surviving relatives of Feis before he named program the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program?” Did Galvano get their endorsement?