Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee. Photo by Jason Delgado.

The Florida Senate voted in favor of a bill Monday which would expand the Guardian Program and provide teachers an option to carry a firearm on school grounds.

Opposed by Senate Democrats and a sole Republican, Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami, SB 7030 passed with a near party line vote of 22-17.


Its next stop is the Republican-controlled House, where it is expected to sail through smooth seas before coming to rest on the governor’s desk. Gov. Ron DeSantis has already expressed support for armed educators.

“If you’re somebody who is working at a school and you are somebody who is trained and has the ability to do it, then you shouldn’t be precluded,” he told the Pensacola News Journal in January.

The Guardian Program was signed into law by former Gov. Rick Scott following the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre, and allowed certain school staff to carry a firearm – but not teachers.

SB7030 does not require teachers to be armed. Rather, it provides a pathway for teachers who wish to carry a firearm to do so. Educators who volunteer and receive authorization from their respective school board will be required to pass a psychological evaluation and undergo at least 144 hours of training by a sheriff’s office: 12 of diversity training and 132 hours of firearm training.

The 54-page-proposal also includes provisions to make more funding available for school safety reports, mental health counseling, and the implementation of a standardized threat assessment.

If the bill does become law, final implementation of the guardian program will be left to a vote by local school boards, according to the bill.

The proposal of expanding the Guardian program and arming school teachers was motivated by the recommendation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission – a 15-member commission tapped to investigate the MSD shooting and submit their findings and recommendations in a final report to the governor.

The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program is named in honor of Aaron Fies, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football coach who died shielding students from gunfire at his alma mater in Parkland, Florida. Fies was among the 17 killed when a 19-year-old former student returned to his school and opened fire on campus Feb. 14, 2018.