A Florida House subcommittee passed a bill yesterday that would allow schools the option of hiring former or current law enforcement officers and military officers to carry firearms on campuses -- "any preschool, elementary school, middle school, junior high school, secondary school, career center, or postsecondary school, whether public or nonpublic."
The bill is called House Bill 753, and it will now head to the House Judiciary Committee.
The topic of armed security in schools has been a national discussion since the Sandy Hook tragedy. The loudest opinions have come from politicians, gun advocates, and hyperbolic talking heads who are convinced that one more or one fewer gun will surely be the marble that tips our country's scale into a postapocalyptic desert of unpatriotic zombies.
Those aren't the people we should be listening to.
Instead, it should be those who have the most at stake: The boo-boo-kissing, lunch-box-packing, time-out-assigning mommies of America.
Yesterday we caught up with some moms at George English Park in Fort Lauderdale.
"I'm not a proponent of guns in any way, but I also know the schools aren't really safe," says one grandmother who requested we not use her name. She's pushing her grandson on a swing. "What happens if they put a gun down somewhere and a kid gets a hold of it?"
Her son is a teacher, and her grandson is almost ready to start school. She goes back and forth on the issue a few times, wrestling around with it in her own head.
Would an armed guard make her feel safer about schools?
"I can't say that it would. I just have a problem with guns."
She finally settles on no.
Most of the mothers, when asked about HB 753, simply weren't aware of it. They had no idea it was even up for debate.
"Who pays for that?" Vanessa Dudley wanted to know. She's a mother of two kids, ages 2 and 4. Her 4-year-old attends St. Mark's Episcopal School in Fort Lauderdale.
The bill specifies that decisions about appointing armed guards would fall on the school boards or principals. Those law enforcement and military personnel -- who, the bill specifies, must have been honorably discharged and not found to have committed a firearms-related disciplinary infraction during his or her service -- would be required to undergo 40 hours of school safety training as well as an annual eight hours of active shooter training and four hours of proficiency training.
(No word yet on the fate of Cleever, the armed Vietnam veteran who sits in the back of The Magic School Bus and denounces evolution.)
"I think it would be OK, but I think it would need to get the parents' approval," Dudley says. Her 2-year-old climbs over her leg as she thinks about this further. Like the other moms, it's her first time hearing about HB 753.
Do armed guards on school campuses make her feel safer?
"Yes and no. Because any time there's a gun at a school -- whether it's in the hands of the good guys or the bad guys -- I'm concerned."
Her answer is rational and spoken calmly. She's every 24-hour news network's night terror.
A few hundred yards away, three moms watching their kids' baseball practice learn about HB 753 for the first time.
They wished to remain anonymous and wouldn't divulge any information about their children, but -- rest assured -- they exist and need to work on their grounders.
"It doesn't necessarily make me feel safer, but it doesn't bother me at all," baseball mom 1 says.
Baseball mom 2 chimes in, "I don't know how I feel about that. I like having a security guard, but I don't know about them being armed. I just worry about the gun getting in the wrong hands."
A few minutes later, number 2 changes her mind. "Now that we're discussing it, I don't have a problem with it. If it's controlled by the school and they set the parameters, then I don't have a problem with it."
Both mom number 1 and number 2 are gun owners themselves.
"I don't really see the point if they're not armed. What would they do?" says mom number 2.
"I think they should have guns, because the security people are going to be the first ones someone targets anyway," baseball mom 3 breaks her silence to agree.
Will armed campus security make the baseball moms feel safer?
"I don't feel unsafe," number 2 says. "I think you always -- as a parent -- have that nervous feeling in your stomach no matter what. Nothing is going to make you feel 100 percent safe when it comes to your child. You can put them in a vault and you still wouldn't feel safe."
Maybe. But you'd sleep like a goddamned angel.
Read the proposed bill for yourself below. Then print it out and show it to a mom near you.
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