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Florida Sheriff Supports Armed Teachers To Stop School Shooters

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – The sheriff leading the state commission investigating Florida's high school massacre in Parkland now says he now believes trained, volunteer teachers should have access to guns so they can stop shooters who get past other safeguards.

This news came as a surprise to almost all of the Parkland parents CBS4's Carey Codd spoke with including one who is a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

Judging by their reaction, they do not want to see teachers armed.

According to the Associated Press, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri who chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission plans to ask the commission to recommend a change in state law to allow teachers who undergo background checks and extensive training to be armed on campus as a last line of defense.

It's a proposal that both the state teachers union and PTA oppose.

So does Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was murdered in the February massacre.

Montalto is the President of the group Stand with Parkland which is made up of the families of all 17 victims.

"We are unequivocally against arming teachers. It happens to be the one thing that all 17 teachers initially came out against," said Montalto.

Montalto believes a better idea is to focus on protecting campuses and keeping bad guys off school grounds.

He also believes trained professionals with guns should be the ones providing security.

"We should hire either trained law enforcement officers or trained security professionals in order to keep our students and staff safe at school.

It does not appear that the issue of arming teachers came up directly at last week's MSD Commission meetings.

However, there was a presentation one morning where teacher recommendations mentioned arming willing staff.

Sarah Lerner is an English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She said she has not spoken to a single teacher who wants to be armed at school.

"It was something that was brought up shortly after the shooting at my school and it was just as foolish then as it is now," Lerner said.

She thinks there are too many things that go wrong if teachers have guns.

"There's too many unknowns," she said. "If I had a gun in my classroom that day or any other day and a student got a hold of it am I not liable because a student accessed my gun?"

After the MSD shooting there were lengthy discussions about arming teachers.

Education leaders in Broward and Miami-Dade came out against it as did the state education leaders.

Montalto thinks it's a bad idea.

"Arming teachers is a misguided idea. We should let teachers teach."

In the Associated Press article, Sheriff GUaltieri said it "gnaws" at him that suspected Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz had time to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle five times and that if a school employee or teacher had been armed in the Freshman Building they might have been able to stop him.

"We know from the history of these things that the majority are stopped by school personnel," Gualtieri said, pointing to shootings where the gunman was tackled or disarmed by a teacher or campus employee. "People need to keep an open mind to it as the reality is that if someone else in that school had a gun it could have saved kids' lives."

Max Schachter, whose son Alex died at the school and is a member of the MSD Commission, said he would not vote in favor of arming teachers when the commission finalizes their recommendations.

After the shooting, Florida law was changed to allow school districts to train and arm employees other than teachers, including administrators, librarians and custodians. Teachers are barred unless they are former or current police officers, current members of the military or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors. Thirteen of the state's 67 countywide districts adopted the program, mostly in rural parts of the state.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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