Hillsborough County School Board and Commission Make Their Voices Heard on Gun Issues

Hillsborough County is getting out ahead of any plans the Florida Legislature may have on new gun control laws. It started last night when the school board went on record against arming any school personnel and continued this morning when the county commission moved forward on extending the waiting period from three to five days.

Meanwhile, District Three Commissioner Les Miller put forth an ordinance Wednesday that would have banned assault weapon sales in the county. That motion was never taken up due to the lack of a second that would have allowed for the proposal to be debated and then voted on.

One reason why the Miller proposal did not get a second could be because a stern fine. The state of Florida has a law that could fine local lawmakers $5,000 for discussing gun laws.

The commission did vote for county staff to draft an ordinance that would extend the gun purchasing period from three days to five.

A Florida Quinnipiac poll released last week showed that 62% of Florida residents support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons and a nationwide ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines. Fifty-six percent oppose allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds, but amendments in line with those views were voted down in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Tuesday night The Hillsborough County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to let Governor Rick Scott know they are opposed to arming any school employees.

The vote came as lawmakers in Tallahassee debated whether to allow certain school staff to carry weapons on campuses.

“We have an obligation to keep our students safe,” said board member Cindy Stuart. “Teachers are meant to be educators, not law enforcement.”

In an interview with WTVT News board member April Griffin indicated the district might be willing to violate the law, should the state try to force districts to allow certain employees to carry guns.

“I want to know what penalties would be placed on this district if that law is passed and signed by our governor to say that ‘we will not abide by this law,'” Griffin said

Hillsborough is not the only area county that is not on board when it comes to arming school personnel. Pasco County has not yet voted on the issue and their plan is to wait and see what comes out of Tallahassee first but their strong indications they are not fans of the marshal’s programs.

Senator Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican, is at the forefront of the “marshal” program that would allow school districts to work with sheriff’s offices in training and arming school employees.

Pasco County School Superintendent Kurt Browning was a hard no on the issue. He made it clear in a statement that while he is willing to wait and see what the new law is that if it requires members of the school staff to be armed he is not on board.

“I have voiced my concerns to Sheriff [Chris] Nocco” about arming school employees, said Browning. “I am not convinced that that is the best way to keep our students safe. Any time you introduce more firearms into a school campus, I believe there is a higher risk of injury. These are not law enforcement officers.”

He had the strong backup from School Board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong who supported Browning’s comments. Vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley sent a letter to Simpson and others criticizing the concept and asking them not to arm teachers.

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.