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House Panel OKs Guns in Schools

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

 A measure that would allow school employees and volunteers to carry guns on campus was approved by a House panel Wednesday as lawmakers continue to discuss the meeting place between firearms and education.

The legislation (HB 19) received the backing of the House K-12 Subcommittee on a bipartisan, 10-1 vote. But one lawmaker who supported the bill voiced concern about the measure.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, school superintendents could allow designated people to carry weapons on campus. Those people could be current or former law enforcement officers or current or former members of the military. They would have to pass background checks, take school-safety courses and have concealed-weapons licenses.

Republicans highlighted the fact that the ultimate choice on allowing weapons at schools would lie with local officials. Supporters contend that allowing designated people to carry guns on campus could improve school safety.

"It's completely up to the district and the superintendent whether they want to do it and how they want to implement it in working with their local law enforcement agencies," Steube said.

"What is a solution in Miami-Dade may not be a solution in Nassau County, and vice versa," said Rep. Janet Adkins, a Fernandina Beach Republican who chairs the subcommittee.

But Rep. Joe Geller of Aventura, the top Democrat on the committee, said he believed the state should trust law-enforcement agencies to handle school safety.

"I don't think an 'American Sniper' approach is the way to protect our kids," said Geller, the lone vote against the bill.

At least one Democrat who supported the measure was also reluctant. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, said he worried that some volunteers who aren't law-enforcement officers "may not have the temperament, the self-control or the discipline to properly deal with situations" that come up at schools.

Bills to allow guns in public schools have been boosted in the House following the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., where more than two dozen people died. In 2013, a similar bill passed two committees but failed to get a vote on the floor; last year, legislation resembling Steube's was approved by the full House.

But the Senate has been more hesitant about the idea. A similar measure never got a hearing 2013 and passed just one of its four committees last year. The Senate companion to Steube's bill (SB 180) hasn't been scheduled for a hearing this year.

Meanwhile, proposals that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on college and university campuses have been moving on both sides of the Capitol.