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Momentum growing for arming Florida teachers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Support for arming teachers in the classroom is growing among key education officials. 

A recent recommendation to expand the Guardian Program by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission has the blessing of state's newly chosen education commissioner.

When the state Legislature passed its comprehensive school safety package earlier this year, it included a program that allowed some trained school staff -- but not teachers -- to carry a gun on campus.

In a 13-1 vote, the commission tasked with investigating the Parkland shooting approved a recommendation asking lawmakers to expand the Guardian Program to include teachers.

"You've got to have people that can defend the students, and defend themselves, and defend the staff," said Commission Chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

On Monday, the Florida Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment of former House Speaker Richard Corcoran as the next state education commissioner. The board took the step after Governor-elect Ron DeSantis recommended the long-time Republican politician for the position.

Corcoran just wrapped up a two-year term as House speaker. He supported arming teachers during the 2018 session. He agrees with the Guardian Program, saying it has been a success so far.

"We have guardians up and down the entire state right now, in the classroom, and it's working tremendously well," Corcoran said. "So a lot of the hype, a lot of the testimony -- we haven't seen any of it."

Groups such as Moms Demand Action say the growing support for arming teachers is alarming.

"There is no evidence that arming teachers will make students any safer,” said Beth Dumond, with Moms Demand Action. "It goes against all the research that shows the presence of guns actually makes children less safe."

It’s unclear exactly where DeSantis stands, but while campaigning in March, he said teachers with concealed carry permits should be allowed to have their firearms on campus.

So far, no bills to arm teachers have been filed for the 2019 session, but anti-gun violence groups say they expect that will change.