A Florida lawmaker has suggested that schools would be safer if principals and teachers were allowed to bring guns to school.
South Florida school superintendents and parents said Tuesday they don’t think that’s a good move.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who is one of the authors of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, said Monday that declaring schools as gun-free zones makes them more dangerous. He was responding to the shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children and seven adults dead, including the gunman.
"We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy. In our zealousness to protect people from harm we've created all these gun-free zones and what we've inadvertently done is we've made them a target," Baxley said. "A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped."
Parent Paul Stiener called Baxley’s idea “absolutely insane.”
“There is no way we can have that,” he said outside a Coconut Grove school.
The suggestion by Baxley – who is not alone – comes as the national debate over gun control and mental health gets to warp speed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"What a sad day in America if it comes to that,” Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho responded Tuesday. “Teachers should not be the ones who are in the first line of defense against violence."
Those thoughts were echoed by Broward County’s school superintendent.
"I don’t think adding more guns in our schools is the answer to the challenges that we have in this country,” Robert Runcie said.
Baxley said in a statement Tuesday that the focus should be on the victims of the shooting and their loved ones.
"Out of respect for them, we should not politicize a national tragedy. There will be plenty of time for debate in the near future," he said.
The idea of guns in the hands of teachers and principals did not go down well with mothers, fathers and grandparents who spoke with NBC 6 South Florida.
"You never know when a person is angry one day and takes that arm to do harm instead of protecting the kids,” Dr. Nilma Feliciano said.
Said Mario Colzadilla: “I don't think that just having more guns is gonna help, you know, anything."
Paula Jeredano brought up a logistical issue.
"Teacher armed? You would have to psychologically analyze every single teacher, because some of them might not be ready for that,” she said.
After a moment of silence for the victims of the school shooting Tuesday morning, Carvalho called for people to come together “and seek meaningful, reasonable, and sustainable solutions to the devastation of humanity we so mourn today.”
Carvalho said that during an elevator ride with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, he proposed bringing together mayors, police chiefs and municipalities to develop a “best-in-the-country plan” to address schools’ security needs.
“The mayor’s response is ‘let’s do it, and let’s do it now.’ Mr. Mayor, I thank you for your commitment,” Carvalho said.