Bill would let certain employees carry guns at Florida schools

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's currently against the law in Florida to carry a gun on school property. But that could soon change.

That's because a piece of legislation weaving its way through the state legislature would allow certain school employees to carry guns on campus.

The issue is a source of controversy for parents and local school officials. Those who spoke with a News4Jax reported had mixed feelings about it.

LEGISLATION: Read the full text of Senate Bill 1236

Senate Bill 1236, which was first filed last month, would make it legal for employees and volunteers chosen by school districts to be armed on school property.

The bill requires those selected to hold concealed carry permits. They must complete 40 hours of school safety training and eight hours a year of active shooter training, among other criteria.

The legislation's sponsor, state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, contends the measure will enhance school safety and security, particularly in the event of an active shooter.

The bill has some local backing. State Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, who practices law focused on Second Amendment issues, endorsed the legislation.

"We know criminals and people with bad intent target places that are gun-free zones, which schools are now. Appreciating concern of parents, I would like to remove gun-free zone designation and give school districts the option for greater armed security at the school," Byrd said in part.

News4Jax reached out to several local school districts to take their temperature on the legislation. Of the three districts that responded, neither offered so much as a lukewarm endorsement.

Duval County School Board Vice Chair Lori Hershey said the district already has training in place for active shooter situations, and she noted that district officials are monitoring the bill's progress.

Meanwhile, St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Tim Forson said he's not convinced having guns in schools is the answer to potential threats and he's concerned about what it would entail.

In a statement, Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis provided the following statement in response to a reporter's questions:

"At this time, this specific legislation has not been a topic of discussion within Clay County District Schools. The District has measures in place to always protect our students, faculty, and staff. As a District, we will continue to monitor the legislative sessions."

Parents interviewed by News4Jax had their own reservations. "I kind of have mixed feelings" because it means there would be guns around kids, said Shana McDowell, a mother of two.

Calvin Rivers, who is opposed to the measure, said more guns on campus would only complicate things in the event of an emergency.

"It would make the police law enforcement's job a heck of a lot more difficult because if they come to an emergency situation, how can they tell who is who?" Rivers said.

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