Everytown for Gun Safety, the bipartisan gun-control organization created and financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says it’s spending $200,000 to pressure Florida lawmakers not to allow classroom teachers to carry a gun at school.
On Sunday, an Everytown political committee bought full-page newspaper ads in opposition to Senate Bill 7030, a school safety bill that includes a proposal to tweak a controversial but limited provision in last year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act to train and arm non-instructional school faculty.
Everytown is also buying digital ads and renting a rolling billboard “emphasizing the dangers of arming teachers” to circle the Florida Capitol until Thursday.
“We should let our teachers teach, instead of putting guns in their hands,” Gay Valimont, head of the Florida chapter of Everytown’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement.
The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times were among the papers to run the group’s ads.
At a fraction of what Everytown spent on the 2018 elections, the mid-session campaign is limited. But it shows the extent to which gun-safety advocacy groups have soured on legislation coming out of Tallahassee just one year after holding up a new Florida law as a sign of the changing mood on gun laws.
In the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida lawmakers passed landmark gun legislation that banned bump stocks, allowed courts to take guns from dangerous people and raised the minimum age to buy rifles. The legislation was seen as a potentially significant shift in the national discourse on gun laws, given Florida’s historical hard-line stance on issues involving the Second Amendment.
But despite its efforts to influence policy in Florida, Everytown is already fighting efforts to change the very law it celebrated last year. The group spent more than $4 million in Florida during the 2018 elections, including $500,000 it gave to a political committee supporting Senate President Bill Galvano, who sponsored the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act.
Galvano, R-Bradenton, initially included language last year in the bill allowing teachers to carry guns under the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program, but after considerable pushback limited that provision to only faculty not exclusively teaching in the classroom. This year, following a recommendation by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission that trained and certified teachers be allowed to carry, the proposal is back before the Legislature and Galvano says he’s again open to the idea.The Guardian program remains optional: Broward County schools participate; Miami-Dade schools do not.
Meanwhile, Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit named after a congresswoman shot in the head during a 2011 political event in Tucson, Arizona, released a study this month documenting 60 incidents where it says adults either lost track of guns in schools or mishandled them, arguably making campus more dangerous.
The study was intended as a response to President Donald Trump’s statements about making schools safer by arming teachers, but applies in Florida, where nine of the documented incidents occurred.