Bill allowing Florida teachers to carry concealed weapons heads to final vote

In a rare Saturday session, a school safety bill that includes a “school marshal” program allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools passed its second reading in the Senate.

After hours of debate on a series of amendments, senators approved the controversial program along with the $67 million to fund it. It’s also included in the House version of the bill (HB 7101), which is up for its second reading on Monday, the same day a final vote on the Senate bill (SB 7026) is scheduled.

» RELATED: Post coverage of the Broward County shooting

The marshal program has drawn considerable opposition not only from parents and survivors of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, but also from Democrats and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

Gov. Rick Scott also opposes it, calling instead for the hire of more school resource officers.

On Saturday, Miami Gardens Democratic leader Oscar Braynon proposed an amendment to remove the marshal program from the bill. It narrowly died in a 20-18 vote.

Another amendment filed by Orlando Sen. Linda Stewart to ban assault weapons also died in a 20-17 vote.

Sen. David Simmons, R – Altamonte Springs, said the amendment didn’t “pass constitutional muster.”

“It’s just not good sense,” he said.

Steward disagreed, calling assault weapons “killing machines” that “are not weapons that protect our homes.”

A ban on assault-style weapons is also cause for tension among lawmakers, with Democrats split over whether to support the package without that language and Republican House members torn between voting against the powerful National Rifle Association, which opposes the bills, or against a measure framed by GOP leaders as essential for making schools safer.

In stunning turn of events, the Senate briefly did approve on a voice vote Braynon’s amendment calling for a two-year moratorium on sales of the AR-15, giving the Florida Department of Law Enforcement time to conduct a study on instituting a permanent ban.

But moments later, it was resurrected for reconsideration and died in a 21-17 roll-call vote.

After the session, Braynon said he “wanted to believe it passed,” but “I’ve been here long enough to know what will happen.”

“We used to do nothing on gun violence,” he said. “I have to take solace in that we’re doing something when we used to do nothing.”

»RELATED: The latest in Florida political news

Democrats presented a host of amendments but only one – by Sen. Randolph Bracy of Orlando – passed. It requires participants in the marshal program to undergo 12 hours of diversity training.

At a press conference hosted by the Democratic caucus, Braynon said Democrats were “collectively disappointed” that many of the amendments proposed by members of his party failed to pass.

But should the bill pass, members are “hopeful this is the beginning of a conversation” on gun control that could lead to Florida shaking its moniker as the “Gunshine State,” he said.

Braynon said it’s likely that the bill’s passing could affect the November election and change the makeup of the Senate.

“These are the types of things that lead to people not getting elected,” he said. “I saw a few people pushing that red button that may regret that.”

Under the Senate version, school boards and school superintendents would have to agree to the marshal program, and county sheriffs would be responsible for training and deputizing teachers or other school personnel who volunteer. But sheriffs would not be required to place volunteer marshals inside schools.

In contrast, the House plan was amended to require sheriffs to implement the program, if school districts decide they want to use it.

The program would allow teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons on campus after completing 132 hours of training under the auspices of a sheriff’s department. According to both bills, that training includes an 80-hour block of instruction on firearms, including 8 hours of instruction on active shooters and four hours learning defensive tactics.

The bills also already have additional funding – $75 million in the Senate proposal and nearly $100 million in the House measure – that schools can use for resource officers.

Next Up in Politics

New Democratic poll shows tight race in primary for governor
New Democratic poll shows tight race in primary for governor

Five Democrats running for governor, from left: Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post) Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is clinging to a within-the-margin-of-error polling lead over former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the five-candidate...
Democratic House candidate airs TV ad saying she won’t back Pelosi for speaker
Democratic House candidate airs TV ad saying she won’t back Pelosi for speaker

Kathy Manning, the Democratic nominee in North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, is airing a new TV ad in which she declares that she will not back Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for speaker, becoming the latest candidate to buck her party's House leader.  Manning, who is running against Rep. Ted Budd, R, in the Republican-leaning district...
Feel the Bern: Sanders to campaign with Andrew Gillum in Tampa, Orlando
Feel the Bern: Sanders to campaign with Andrew Gillum in Tampa, Orlando

Andrew Gillum hopes to tap into some of the Berniemania that was on display in Miami last year when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made an appearance. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post) Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders got shellacked by Hillary Clinton in Florida’s 2016 presidential primary. But...
Twitter suspends Infowars founder’s account over a Tweet
Twitter suspends Infowars founder’s account over a Tweet

Twitter on Tuesday suspended the account of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against media and others, in a violation of the company’s rules against inciting violence.  The action effectively prevents Jones from tweeting...
The New York Times joins effort to combat Trump’s anti-press rhetoric
The New York Times joins effort to combat Trump’s anti-press rhetoric

 The call to arms came in the form of a memo.  Marjorie Pritchard, the deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe, reached out to editorial boards at other newspapers last week.  “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing...
More Stories