Broward County sheriff says armed teachers could "create a tragic scenario where innocent people can get injured or killed"

By Jeff Truesdell
May 03, 2019 02:42 PM
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Broward Sheriff

A Florida sheriff is standing firm against arming classroom teachers after state lawmakers authorized educators to carry guns in the wake of last year’s high school shooting in Parkland.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, in a letter sent to the county’s school board and superintendent, wrote, “This is not the solution to gun violence in schools that we are seeking.”

The May 1 letter conveyed the sheriff’s concern that putting guns in the hands of teachers would be more likely “to create a tragic scenario where innocent people can get injured or killed.”

He added: “This program would place students, teachers, and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our children safe and making schools places where students feel they belong.”

The letter comes in response to a measure approved this week by the Florida Legislature that would allow local school boards to permit arming educators who complete at least 144 hours of training to participate in the state’s school guardian program, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Students who survived the February 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members also oppose the measure.

“NO NO NO NO NO NO. I refuse to go to a school in a state that lets teachers have guns in the classroom,” tweeted Parkland survivor Lauren Hogg. “This is not okay. I don’t know if I can live in FL anymore and feel okay going to school.”

Another Parkland student, Emma Gonzalez, tweeted, “LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE AFFECTED BY THIS, THOSE IN THE LEGISLATURE DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO US.”

Both students helped launch the national student-led March for Our Lives campaign for gun violence prevention that grew out of the Parkland massacre.

Parkland students joined in a nationwide walkout to protest gun violence on March 14, 2018
Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

The approved legislation awaits the signature of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis before it can become law. The measure remains under review, says a spokesman for the governor’s office.

The March for Our Lives movement against gun violence went global
CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

DeSantis appointed Tony to the sheriff’s post after suspending his predecessor, Scott Israel, citing Israel’s failings related to mass shootings at the Parkland school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, reports the Sun-Sentinel.

The Broward school board earlier passed a resolution against arming teachers and calling for stronger gun control measures, according to the newspaper.

“Teachers are not trained law enforcement officers, and should not be asked or incentivized to keep weapons accessible in their classrooms,” the resolution stated.

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In his letter, the sheriff wrote, “Sworn police officers undergo extensive firearm training to respond to crisis scenarios, and we continue working on our skills and discipline throughout our careers. Teachers enter that profession to educate children, not to serve as school security.”

Memorial for the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018
Terry Spencer/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“Not only does public opinion indicate that this is not something teachers, parents or students want, but many recognize that stress, fear, and the rapid response needed may put both students and teachers at an extreme risk,” Tony wrote. “Having untrained personnel carrying firearms is more likely to create a tragic scenario where innocent people can get injured or killed.”

“Additionally, having more firearms in an active shooter situation would make it more difficult for police officers to identify the shooter and respond accordingly,” he wrote. “Our job is to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and provide schools with the protection and life-saving training they need.”

“Although I commend their effort to address the rampant school violence that we have seen in the last few years,” he continued, “I vehemently believe that Florida legislators missed the mark by proposing to arm teachers. There is no evidence that supports the notion that arming teachers would deter a shooter, while the threat posed by untrained individuals with guns in crisis situations is widely recognized. I urge you to not permit for the arming of teachers should this bill be approved and signed into law.”