The President of one of the largest teacher unions in Florida said arming teachers will not help stop school shootings.
The panel investigating the Stoneman Douglas high school massacre recommended Wednesday that teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted 13-1 to recommend the Legislature allowing the arming of teachers, saying it's not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus.
“A teacher's day and job is so complex, and there is so many things they have to do. So, the idea of adding a weapon to that, in terms of their skill set, and being able to operate that and plan for that is really absurd,” Rob Kriete, the President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.
Kriete said the problem legislators and leaders need to address is lack of funding for public schools that help kids in need.
“You are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound that is really the mental health issues we really need to get to. And we feel like in this state we need to start funding that properly,” Kriete said. “Get psychologists the wrap-around services kids need at the school. The legislature doesn’t want to fund these programs for the kids in the districts. So, this is a knee-jerk reaction, I think, to do something instead of nothing. Their hands are tied because funding is so low from Tallahassee. In this state we’ve gone from 25th to 48th in the country in terms of public school funding.”
Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead allows districts to arm non-teaching staff members such as principals, librarians, and custodians — 13 of the 67 districts do, mostly in rural parts of the state.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission's chairman, pushed the measure at the Tallahassee meeting. He said most deaths in school shootings happen within the first few minutes before officers on and off campus can respond. He said suspect Nikolas Cruz stopped to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle five times, all of which would have been opportunities for an armed teacher to shoot him.
"We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves," Gualtieri said. He said there aren't enough officers or money to hire one for every school, but even then officers need backup. "One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.”
Currently, teachers in 28 states can carry firearms, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, a conservative nonprofit organization. District approval is required in most states and restrictions, and training requirements vary.
The 15-member commission, which has been meeting periodically since April, will present a report to Gov. Rick Scott, incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature by Jan. 1. The commission includes law enforcement, education and mental health professionals, a legislator and the fathers of two slain students. Commissioner Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex died in the massacre, cast the lone vote against the motion. He said the state should focus on hiring more police officers for campuses and allowing non-teaching staff to carry guns.
"We do need more good guys with a gun on campus — nobody understands that and wishes we had more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas than myself," Schachter said. But arming teachers "creates a host of problems." The father and wife of other victims, who are not on the commission, also spoke against arming teachers.