Parkland Shooting Commission recommends arming teachers

A state Public Safety Commission, which investigated the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, voted 13 to 1 to recommend to the state Legislature that teachers be armed.

The panel recommended that teachers who chose to carry guns could undergo an extensive background check and training to be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus, with the hope of preventing future shootings, Fox News reports.

The commission recommended to the state Legislature that public school teachers and administrators be armed, arguing that it wasn’t enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus. (And especially those that hide and don’t engage the shooter.)

Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting, allows school districts to arm non-teaching staff members like principals, librarians and custodians, with the exception of staff who are former or current police officers, current members of the military or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors.

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. When the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, stopped to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle– five times– armed teachers or administrators could have had an opportunity to stop him.

“We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves,” Gualtieri said. He added, “One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.” (Except– where was the one good guy on campus? Wasn’t the commission supposed to investigate the failure of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department?)

The state teachers union and PTA oppose the idea, arguing that teachers are hired to educate, not to be police officers.

Currently, teachers in 28 states can carry firearms, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center. District approval is required in most states and restrictions and training requirements vary.

The 15-member commission, which has met periodically since April, plans to 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.

Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning also ruled against the school’s security officer, Scot Peterson, who claimed he did not have an obligation to engage the shooter. Had he actually done his job, perhaps the shooter may not have killed 17 people.

The judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parent of a victim, ruling that Peterson did have a duty to protect those inside the school. Video and other evidence indicates that Peterson, the only armed officer at the school, remained outside while shots rang out.

The negligence lawsuit was filed by Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, was killed. Pollack maintains that a sworn law enforcement officer with a badge and a gun has a requirement to serve and protect. If he wasn’t required to go inside and confront the shooter, what was he being paid to do?

“Then what is he doing there?” Pollack said after the ruling. “He had a duty. I’m not going to let this go. My daughter, her death is not going to be in vain.”

Peterson did not attend the hearing. His attorney argued that “There is no legal duty that can be found. At its very worst, Scot Peterson is accused of being a coward. That does not equate to bad faith.”

The commission condemned Peterson’s actions as “derelict” in his duties.

Cruz, the 20-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student and shooter, pled not guilty. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. His lawyers have said he would plead guilty if he was offered a life sentence.

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