Senate President Joe Negron says he supports the idea of arming teachers to help protect students in schools if they are properly trained and undergo appropriate background checks.
“I am open to the idea of having properly credentialed, properly trained teachers, retired military, retired law enforcement members that have the appropriate training and background tests done, psychological evaluations, to have them in our schools to provide additional security,” said Negron, R-Stuart. “That’s something that I could support.”
But he said he would not support a ban on the sale of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons or restricting the amount of bullets held by gun cartridges.
“I don’t support that,” Negron said. “I believe that to ban a particular type of rifle in its entirety and make it illegal–in my judgment–crosses the line into being unconstitutional. We have a commitment to following the Constitution in difficult times, as well as in times when those rights are not being questioned.”
Negron didn’t close the door to the possibility of raising the legal age for buying such a gun to 21, along with the possibility of imposing a waiting period for buying a semi-automatic weapon.
The Senate president’s comments came the day after students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School visited the Capitol to lobby lawmakers for changes to the state’s gun laws, improving mental health care services and making schools more secure.
“The students..their information to us has been very powerful,” Negron said.
It was just over a week ago that law enforcement says 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Stoneman Douglas in Parkland and opened fire on students, staff and faculty killing 17 people. Cruz had been expelled from the school a year earlier after exhibiting various mental health issues as well as threatening others.
Improving mental health services offered by the state appears to be the one area that lawmakers appear to be in consensus with when it comes to looking for ideas to avoid another tragedy like what occurred in Parkland.
A week before the massacre, the Senate had already approved funding for a $40 million pilot program to improve cooperation between schools and local mental health treatment services. The program was the idea of Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. But since last week’s school shooting, Senate leaders say they are now looking at increasing the funding level to $100 million.
Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran say the Senate should have their school safety packages prepared by the beginning of the week at the latest. Gov. Rick Scott, who held a series of workshops in Tallahassee on Tuesday to address the school safety issue, said he expects to have his proposals ready on Friday.