Florida teachers are now allowed to carry guns in their classroom thanks to a controversial new law that went into effect Tuesday.
School districts can now choose to opt in or out of arming teachers.
While bigger school districts like Miami-Dade and Orlando have opted out, smaller school districts — such as Bay County Schools in the Florida panhandle — may have teachers with loaded firearms in their classrooms to prevent mass school shootings.
“Everybody wants to know ‘How do we prevent it?’ How can we stop it. We don’t look at it as we want more guns, we look at it as we want more protection,” said Bay County Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt, according to CBS News.
The bill was initially passed as a response to last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 students and staff members. Florida is now the eighth state to allow teachers to have guns on school property.
Along with an armed police officer, teachers are now able to join the “Guardian Program” and carry guns on campus if they pass a background check, psychological exam and practice on the range for 140 hours.
Mr. Husfelt described this law as personal as he was almost the victim of gun violence on school grounds.
A man walked into a 2010 school board meeting and fired at him and others. He missed, and killed himself after a security guard shot him.
“You know experiencing that myself put a different spin on it and a different understanding about what goes on in those situations,” Husfelt said. “You know, until you’re standing in front of someone with a gun pointed at you you don’t realize how helpless you really are.”
Debbi Hixon — who lost her athletic director husband Chris in the Parkland shooting — has criticized the law, saying: “Teachers should not be burdened whether they think they want to or not with the responsibility of worrying about carrying a firearm.”
She and Tony Montalto — who lost his daughter Gina in the same massacre — said they’d rather see expansions to gun control and mental health programs instead of arming people in classrooms.
“We do believe in the Guardian Program, we do believe in school resource officers, and we do believe in having trained police officers on the campus,” Mr. Montalto said. “We need an armed person on campus able and willing to react properly.”