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Why We Voted For The School Safety Bill

By Representatives Rene Plascensia, Thad Altman, Tom Goodson, and Randy Fine Today, we voted for the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, and with its passage, it was sent to Governor Scott for his signature. This ground-breaking legislation, passed in the aftermath of the unfathomable tragedy of the murder of seventeen teachers and students last month in Parkland, is dedicated to ensuring that nothing like this ever happens again in the State of Florida.

This 105-page, $400 million bill offers a multi-pronged strategy to address the existential challenge facing our schools. The bill creates the Office of Safe Schools within the Department of Education and appropriates tens of millions of dollars to assist with school security assessments and hardening. It dramatically increases funding for full-time School Resource Officers, full-time law enforcement personnel in every one of our schools. It provides new mechanisms to temporarily restrain weapons from those adjucated mentally ill or unstable. It commits tens of millions of dollars to increase mental health services for our youth, to make sure we intercept troubled youth before they turn to violence. $400 million dollars to make sure this never happens again.

We’d like to address a number of the more controversial components of the bill. On one side, the bill creates the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program that will allow school personnel, including teachers, to defend themselves and their students in the event of an armed assault on campus. Here are some things you should know: the program is voluntary, and no teacher or school employee will be forced – or even encouraged – to carry a weapon. Any person who wishes to participate will have to complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training, pass a psychological examination designed by the FDLE, pass an initial and ongoing drug tests, and complete annual training and firearm qualification. Ninety-eight percent of mass shooting events have happened in the ironically named “gun free zones.” The statistics shake out this way because mass shooters know they will be able to inflict their carnage unimpeded. It is our belief that simply by having the knowledge that some school personnel COULD be armed will dissuade madmen from making a “gun-free” zone a “gun-used” zone.

To those who complain that this is a “gun control” bill, we could not disagree more. The bill bans devices that convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, a type of gun that has been illegal for decades. The bill requires a three day waiting period on all firearms, but not for hunters and not for anyone with a concealed carry permit. We don’t see it as an undue burden to wait as long for non-hunters to buy a rifle as it takes to get your items from Amazon Prime. Lastly, the bill does not allow non-military and law enforcement members under 21 to purchase a rifle from a firearms dealer. But it does not stop a father giving a rifle to a son that he believes can own and use it responsibly. It does not stop a mother giving a shotgun to her daughter that she believes needs it to protect herself.

Do we think these gun measures would have stopped Parkland? No. Do we support them? No. But the question before us is not whether we support these measures or whether we support the Guardian program. The decision before us was whether we supported or opposed the package as a whole.

The famous philosopher Voltaire once said that “Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.” Is this bill perfect? No. Are there things we would change? Yes. But is it good? Will it protect children by hardening schools? Yes. Will it provide additional mental health services to try to intercept damaged children before they turn to violence? Yes. Will it remove guns from those determined to be mentally ill? Will it allow the next Aaron Feis to defend himself rather than be gunned down defenseless? Yes.

Bottom line: will it save the lives of those we have the highest obligation to defend – our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters? Yes. It will.

Representatives Plascensia, Altman, Goodson, and Fine are the four Florida House members that represent Brevard County


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