~ Multi-faceted approach includes elements for hardening schools and criminalizing threats ~
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Representative Ross Spano today joined Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to announce a series of measures they are recommending to reduce the threat of mass casualty shootings. While at least one element of the proposal is already the subject of active legislation, the remaining recommendations were developed in response to the outcry for action to limit gun violence.
“All week we’ve seen people react to the Parkland Tragedy reflexively, often without substance or long term vision. We owe the families and friends of those 17 victims, as well as the thousands of survivors, something much better than an empty gesture,” said Representative Spano. “I can’t thank Sheriff Judd and others enough for their wisdom and input into what I believe is a plan that will make a significant difference.”
“We must have a multi-layered approach to keeping our schools and our community safe. We need a better system in place to interdict credible threats when they are made. And, we need a realistic, last best chance to keep our children alive in schools by having a group of select, well-vetted, and well-trained teachers, coaches, and staff who will carry concealed weapons on campus to stop a killer if he shows up.” - Grady Judd, Sheriff
Recommendations include the following action items:
- Dedicate matching state funds for school district spending on hardening school facilities
- Allocate state funding for at least one armed School Resource Officer (SRO) on every public school campus
- Expand the “Sentinel Program” - voluntary program for teachers, administrators, volunteers (active and retired military and law enforcement) and parents who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon; participants would be required to pass enhanced background checks, undergo emotional/psychological evaluation and complete comprehensive standardized training
- Pass legislation to criminalize threats, providing law enforcement and prosecutors the necessary tools to intervene when threats are reported
- Mandate reporting by individuals with custodial responsibilities (health care professionals, guidance counselors, school nurses, teachers, administrators, day care providers, etc.) to strengthen “see something, say something”
- Develop process by which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) can create a standardized security and risk assessment for school districts to implement with local law enforcement
- Request Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) create standardized curriculums for Sentinel Program and Active Shooter Training
- Protect people attending religious services by passing the Church Protection Act (SB 1048 / HB 1419) - enables churches and other house of worship to allow members of their congregation who are licensed to carry a concealed firearm to carry during services; not effective during school hours (if a church has a school) or during school extracurricular activities
- Introduce Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs)
a. GVROs would permit a narrowly defined group of people (law enforcement, spouse, parent, sibling, roommate, etc.) to petition the court for an order to temporarily remove a troubled individual’s gun rights
b. Petitioners must provide clear, convincing, admissible evidence that the respondent is a significant danger to himself / herself or others
c. The order must be appealable, ie: respondent has an opportunity to contest the claims
d. The order should lapse after a defined period of time unless petitioners or the state can produce clear and convincing evidence that it should remain in place
e. In the event of an emergency order (granted before the respondent can contest the claims), a full hearing should be scheduled quickly
f. Includes penalties for false reporting
Sheriff Judd and Representative Spano were joined by Dr. Kent Ingle, President of Southeastern University, and Pastor Wayne Roberts of Bethel Baptist Church in Lakeland.
As President of Southeastern University, Dr. Ingle supports the Sheriff's Sentinel Program that provides highly trained and screened faculty and staff members as special Deputy Sheriffs to carry concealed weapons on campus to enhance safety and security.
“The Sentinel Program is working on our campus and we believe it could continue to provide an enormous benefit if expanded statewide,” said Dr. Ingle. “Many teachers have said they don’t want to carry and that’s perfectly ok, but there are plenty of others who would gladly step forward to protect and defend our children and their right to a safe education.”
Pastor Roberts is an advocate for the right to carry concealed weapons in houses of worship (according to individual church policy and preferences).
“It is impossible to ignore the potential of threats to schools as well as churches, synagogues and other houses of worship,” said Pastor Roberts. “Having the option to legally carry at a service would not only provide our members with some measure of peace of mind, I hope it would also send a message to criminals that we are no longer helpless targets.”