Students travel to Tallahassee with a message — don’t arm our teachers

Students arrived by the busload to the Florida Capitol Wednesday to urge lawmakers to vote down a proposal that would allow teachers to carry guns on campus.

About 200 students lined the pathway into the House chamber and held the photos of people lost to gun violence.

Robert Schentrup, 19, displayed a picture of his sister, Carmen, who was one of the 17 people killed last year in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. She was one week away from her 17th birthday.

He said he thought about whether a teacher with a gun could have saved his sister’s life, but he concluded the unintended consequences outweigh the benefits.

Supporters, though, say allowing teachers to carry guns would make schools safer when most mass shootings are over in a matter of minutes.

The Parkland shooter spent fewer than four minutes gunning down students and staff.

“They were just sitting ducks — with no chance,” state Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, said in a hearing last week.

The proposal would expand the state’s Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program created in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

Named for an assistant football coach killed in the massacre, the program allows non-instructional employees to carry guns if they undergo training and pass a psychological evaluation.

Last year, state lawmakers opted not to include most classroom teachers on the list of school employees authorized to carry weapons.

The state commission investigating the Parkland shooting recommended in December expanding the program to include teachers.

School boards would decide whether to participate in the guardian program. School systems also have the option of stationing a law enforcement officer at each school, a costlier option.

Twenty-five districts participate in the guardian program, including Broward County.

Educators would need to pass a psychological evaluation and complete at least 144 hours of firearms training to carry a gun on campus.

Molly Lavoie, 18, a student at Osceola County School for the Arts, held a sign that read, “mental health over guns.” Another student carried a sign that read, “If giving more people guns made us safer, America would be the safest country on Earth.”

“I don’t want to worry about one of my teachers having a gun,” Lavoie said. “It’s very scary that could be a reality for me.”, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher

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