Democrats in Florida legislature to vote against measure to arm teachers

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Bureau Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 7:32 PM EST

As a Republican-crafted gun violence prevention package speeds toward House and Senate floor votes, a growing number of Democrats are planning to vote against it.

  • Democrats plan to vote against 'Marshal Program' provision
  • Provision allows teachers, admin to carry guns at schools 
  • Democrats to introduce amendment to include assault weapon ban in package

Democrats are taking particular issue with a provision that would allow certain teachers and administrators to carry guns on school campuses.

The so-called 'Marshal Program' would allow school districts to enter into compacts with sheriff's offices to provide specialized training to school staff.

Upon completion, the staffers would be able to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

"Putting firearms in the hands of our educators is absurd," said Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Ft. Lauderdale), the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, which announced its opposition to the package on Wednesday.

"That's clearly a job for law enforcement. What lawmakers should be doing is finding ways to keep guns out of our schools, something the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have told us repeatedly," he said.

Republican leaders have hailed the Marshal Program as an of out-of-the-box approach to gun violence that could become a national model.

"It's the first of its kind and it is absolutely, in my opinion, the game-changer in this legislation," said House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes).

Critics, however, aren't just taking issue with the program's framework. They're also decrying the way it took shape, with the mother of a Parkland shooting victim expressing her exasperation with Tallahassee's fly-by-wire policymaking process.

"We were just saying yes to what we understood and (what) we were told, but the next day nobody called us up to say, 'oh, you know what, why don't you meet with me now at seven o'clock in the morning so I can tell you all the extra stuff they put in the bill. So before you say yes, I want you to know what's really in there'," said Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son Scott was a teacher at Stoneman Douglas High.

As a result, Beigel Schulman now doesn't support nor oppose the legislation, which also lacks the assault weapons ban gun control advocates have been demanding.

Democrats plan to introduce floor amendments to include such a ban in the package, as well as to scrap the Marshal Program. Republicans are expected to easily defeat both measures.

"The legislation that is here before you is the legislation that has been painstakingly put together to address every place there was a failure," said Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes).