More guns in schools.
That’s the stark recommendation from the 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which on Wednesday rolled out its final report on how to prevent another tragedy like the Parkland massacre last February.
The 446-page report recommends that the Florida Legislature expand the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program – named for the Marjory Stoneman coach who was killed trying to protect students – to arm teachers. The program, signed into law by outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott last March, currently only allows administrators or non-educational staff to undergo firearms training. Other safety measures included raising the minimum age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21 and $400 million in funding for expanded mental health programs.
“Do we want armed people at school?” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who was on the commission. “No. We don’t want it, but it’s necessary. This is a new day. It’s a new world.”
The notion of arming teachers is not new: School districts, especially rural ones in states like Ohio and Texas, have been putting guns in classrooms for years. But it received a lot of attention in the wake of the Parkland shooting when the National Rifle Association and the Trump administration expressed support for the idea. The National Education Association, meanwhile, deemed the notion of arming teachers “preposterous, ill-conceived, and dangerous.” Nonetheless, many school districts nationwide have pursued their own programs to give teachers access to firearms in the last year.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chaired the Parkland commission, was originally opposed to the idea of arming teachers. Now he’s changed his mind.
“This is going to happen again,” said Gualtieri. “The question is where? The question is when? And the ultimate question we should be asking: What changes have we made to mitigate the harm as quickly as possible?"
The commission recommends that willing teachers be “thoroughly screened and extensively trained” to carry concealed firearms on school campuses for protection. The recommendation to extend the Guardian program to teachers is now awaiting the approval of the Legislature, of Scott and of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.
In addition to recommending arming teachers, the report parses in exhaustive detail the shooter’s movements, and what breakdowns in the school’s security infrastructure led to the deaths of 17 people that day. For example, the commission recommends that school districts install classroom doors without windows, or with a device that can “readily block line of sight through the window.” This recommendation stems from the observation that currently,, classroom doors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High feature glass panes, which allowed the shooter “line-of-sight access to target his victims.” According to the report, he never actually entered any classroom, and only shot people in his line of sight in a classroom or hallway.
Surveillance video is another matter. The report says that school districts should allow law enforcement remote access to campus surveillance video systems. The commission notes that “law enforcement’s inability to independently live-view the cameras hindered the law enforcement response and caused safety issues because they were unable to determine if [the shooter] was still in the building.”
Cover: Students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)