Joe Henderson: Hillsborough school board made right call on guns

hillsborough county schools

The Hillsborough County School Board deserves a tip of the hat for its wise and unanimous decision to oppose arming select employees under the guise of security.

The vote was a pre-emptive stand against the movement in the Florida House to allow willing schools to authorize select individuals to carry firearms.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, board member Cindy Stuart, who introduced the motion, said it best: “It is wrong, arming anyone other than law enforcement on our campus.”

Absolutely correct.

Former Florida Education Commissioner and University of South Florida President Betty Castor told WFLA-TV in Tampa, “It is shocking that you have a tragedy and there are obviously some things that can be done. But to suddenly say, ‘we want to transform our teaching and our administrative staffs at schools and arm them to take care of snipers or unsettled students or anybody else that might come in with a firearm.’ It just makes no sense at all.”

The debate about to best secure public schools has the hottest issue in the state since the Valentine’s Day slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

When educators and law enforcement officials throughout the state lampooned a proposal in the Legislature to allow schools to designate certain teachers to be armed, lawmakers backed off a bit.

However, the House is still debating the notion of allowing designated noninstructional personnel to be armed as part of a general beefed up security plan. It’s the ol’ “good guy with a gun” theory.

At least the Legislature, for now, appears willing to leave it up to local school districts and law enforcement whether they want to let employees carry guns. Hillsborough, the nation’s eighth-largest school district, has already decided.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister has agreed with the board’s decision.

What part of this condemnation escapes lawmakers?

What happened in Parkland made it clear that schools need better security but putting weapons in the hands of employees — even if they have been trained — could make a bad situation worse.

I do not doubt that many of those who support the idea of arming employees believe it’s the right thing to do. I’m not questioning their motives or sincerity, since Parkland was a blow to Florida’s psyche the likes of which we have never seen.

But sincere or not, the idea to be shouted down.

Reports out of Parkland showed a scene of chaos and carnage. Introducing more weapons for people other than professional law enforcement is inviting catastrophe.

The Legislature plans to spend millions on things that could make schools more secure. It is an unfortunate reality that all schools should have professional, armed security people on site at all times.

It’s the world we live in.

It stops there though.

Introducing more guns onto school campuses is asking for trouble, no matter the motive.

As we saw at Parkland, even trained law enforcement officers failed to intervene and possibly save lives. If they couldn’t do the job, what makes anyone believe an armed administrator would?

It’s crazy talk, and Hillsborough was right to take the stand it did.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Ben

    March 7, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Wasn’t law enforcement guarding the school where 17 children were killed?

  • Fed Up

    March 7, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    “Parkland was a blow to Florida’s psyche the likes of which we have never seen.”

    I beg to differ – the Pulse massacre was also such a blow. The fact that those murdered were adults doesn’t make it any less painful.

  • Mary Jo Pezzi

    March 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    More guns is the the solution. Fewer guns and strict gun control is the solution.
    Daniel Webster, US Rep. in Florida Dist. 11 sent out a newsletter survey to his constituents asking “What do you think the minimum age should be to purchase a semi-automatic rifle” The choices were 18 – 21 – or illegal at any age (ban assault weapons).. He is a Republican, in case you wonder. Which makes the results even more impressive: 18 yrs old = 28%, 21yrs old = 34%, illegal at any age = 38%.

    Which really makes me wonder how much money our own Florida Senators get from the gun lobby because they voted down a ban on assault rifles, even a two-year moratorium and instead voted to use taxpayers’ money to assist in putting more guns in schools via a voluntary program that will ARM TEACHERS.. exactly what students, parents, principals and a majority of Florida residents asked them NOT TO DO!

    Here is the list of who voted against a ban on assault rifles (even a 2yr ban) and instead backed more guns in schools. You will also find event links to the #MarchForOurLives on March 24th being lead by the student survivors at Parkland High School in Washington DC.. and many event in your areas in Florida.


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