This is the price of letting the mob, even one led by sympathetic teens, rule over sound principles: the loss of Constitutional rights and wrecked budgets.
After the deadly shooting of 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school earlier this year that resulted in huge protests fronted by students of the school, the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature caved to the emotional mob and passed laws violative of Americans’ Second Amendment rights while causing havoc with the budgets of every School District and Sheriff’s Office in the state.
It’s the dirty little secret largely being ignored. This was not a well-thought-through, studied, principled piece of legislation. And it was not necessary. It would not have prevented Parkland.
Most of the news coverage focused on guns, guns, guns. The media narrative was all zeroed in on how much would the Republican Florida Legislature go against the wishes of the NRA in a pro-gun state. Quite a bit it turns out, particularly when activists bring uninformed teens into the chambers for gimmicky procedural votes specifically designed to elicit an emotional response.
The portion of the law most people know about is the one restricting gun ownership for those under 21 and requiring a three-day waiting period to buy all guns. So you can be in the military and go to war, you can be in law enforcement and engage bad guys, you can enter into contracts, you can drive trucks, you can get married and start a family — but you cannot do what the Constitution of the United States expressly protects your right to do: own a gun.
“This bill punishes law-abiding gun owners for the criminal acts of a deranged individual,” said the NRA-ILA’s executive director Chris Cox. The NRA is suing on Constitutional grounds, which will cost plenty of money, as they have a strong case are not apt to back down.
The second part of the Parkland legislation news coverage was over whether “we should arm teachers” — as the media framed the verbiage. This provision allows districts to voluntarily create a program where educators can volunteer to be trained on an ongoing basis and then allowed to carry a weapon on campus to defend students and others. Of course, this was roundly opposed by the guns, guns, guns crowd and it appears only a handful of rural school districts will opt in to the program.
But given very little coverage was the requirement to beef up law enforcement at the schools by requiring a school resource officer in every Florida school that did not opt for allowing school personnel to conceal carry. This is a generally popular response, despite the total collapse of law enforcement in Broward County at Parkland — where there was a school resource officer who stayed outside during the slaughter.
This is an extraordinarily expensive provision given the size of Florida as the nation’s third largest state.
There are 4,000 public schools in Florida. Law enforcement figures each school resource officer costs about $100,000 in salary, benefits, supplies and general overhead. So putting one at every school represents a $400 million endeavor statewide, towards which the state only committed $100 million. This is an ongoing, $300 million expense, every year.
And there’s the rub. The Legislature responded to the Parkland tragedy and difficult environment with not only a bad law, but one that shoves its badness down to the local level for payment.
This has created a mini crisis among school districts, sheriff departments and the counties that fund them around the state. An average-sized school district in Florida (they are all countywide) would need to find $3 million to $5 million to accomplish this task. The big districts would need much more.
Again. Every year. While safe schools are felt to be an urgent need, what this means is taking funding from elsewhere in the operating budget — the largest single cost of which are teachers. So districts are hoping that local sheriffs will either cover all or part of the costs. But sheriffs have their own budget constraints and resource demands, including the desire of the population not inside a school building to be safe.
So this hasty legislation has pitted school districts against sheriffs when those relations were traditionally quite strong and cooperative.
Worse, it may prove impossible to even meet outside the financial constraints. Most sheriff departments have openings they cannot fill because there are not enough qualified applicants. Florida’s economy is so strong and unemployment so low (3.7 percent) that neither sheriff departments or private security companies can maintain full strength, and they are competing with each other for the few candidates that come available.
The guardian program could solve this, as it is much less expensive to train school personnel and they are already on campus, but professional school administrators prevent most from even considering it.
The Legislature’s action means finding thousands of new sheriff deputies to be trained as school resources officers; or reducing the number of deputies patrolling the streets, making the rest of the community potentially less safe — including students when they are not in school.
This damaging legislation should never have been rammed through so quickly, despite the unconscionable way anti-gun activists marshalled and organized sympathetic students for their cause.