State legislature debates bills allowing guns in school

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Both the State Senate and the House took action today on controversial measures many hope will make area schools safer. The measures would grant an exception to the rule that prohibits firearms on school property.

"I think it's a bad idea to have fire arms in that environment," says Sarasota resident Pat Bugliani of House Bill 753 and its Senate counterpart bill 968.

School officials say the bill’s purpose is to help protect teachers and students during an active hostage situation, and it’s broken down into three key previsions.

"One is a focus on more training and exercising in what you do in the cases of when there is something like an active shooter,” says Scott Lempe, Chief Operating Officer of the Sarasota School District. “The second is a provision that requires law enforcement review [safety contingencies in building plans] prior to construction, and third there are some exceptions to the rule that says right now no one can carry a weapon on campus."

Lempe says that even if the measure passes, Sarasota schools will not be adding armed personnel to their staff.

"One of the best provisions of this bill in my mind is that it isn't a mandate. It doesn't say ‘thou shall’; it give superintendents the option -- and on personal level I do not believe bringing more guns to a gun fight is the way to make a school more safe," says Lempe.

In addition to containing an opt-out clause, the bill will only allow those who undergo special training to carry a gun on school property. That training must also lay out when and in what circumstance the weapon can be used.

Still, many in the community have mixed feeling about the law.

"I believe in the second amendment and I do think guns have a place in our society with people who are legally able to own them and are trained to use them, but in schools?” Asks Sarasota resident Gary Speter. “That's a though one and I'm not really sure how I feel about that."

Sarasota resident Ray Lingos offers a slightly different perspective. "As former teacher and a volunteer in the schools, I wish it wasn't an issue, but I'm for anything that would keep the kids and the teachers safe," she says.