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FL Senate OKs Plan to Arm Teachers, Rejects Assault-Weapons Ban

Democrats in the Florida Senate want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. (Trimmel Gomes)
Democrats in the Florida Senate want to ban weapons such as the AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. (Trimmel Gomes)
March 5, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After hours of intense debate, the Florida Senate rejected an assault weapons ban this weekend, while moving forward with a voluntary plan to arm teachers in schools.

In a rare Saturday session, senators briefly approved - then swiftly rejected - an amendment to Senate Bill 7026 that would've banned the sale of AR-15 rifles, the type used in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Democrats, including Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, tried unsuccessfully to strip a controversial provision to allow specially trained teachers to bring guns to schools.

"I also said when there's a fire already burning, you don't add more fuel to it,” Gibson said. “And so, we are here on literally what's supposed to be a gun violence bill, and we're just adding more guns to the mix. It doesn't make sense."

The Senate rejected nearly four dozen Democratic amendments to the bill that was introduced by conservative Republicans. The Senate is expected to approve it Monday and send it to the House, where leaders hope to approve it in time to reach the governor's desk before the session ends on March 9.

The so-called school marshal program would allow school districts to work with county law enforcement to deputize trained school personnel to carry concealed weapons during school hours. Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano, who introduced the Senate's updated version of the bill, said the only thing he would've liked to change about that provision is the name. But he said the measure gives others a chance to have a say.

"Because it's a voluntary program, I think I would've liked to at least give the sheriffs the opportunity to make some decisions in terms of what they offer, and have the districts weigh in a little bit,” Galvano said.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he opposes arming teachers, and the program is opposed by most of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. That group has said it fears black students could face disproportionate discrimination by school officials carrying firearms.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL