The Florida commission created to investigate the mass shooting at a Broward County high school in which 17 students and adults died last Feb. 14 dropped a bombshell recommendation that vetted volunteer and trained teachers be allowed to carry guns on campus, USA Today has confirmed.
And now at the far corner of the country, there appears to be a giant flaw in the language of a new Washington State law, passed by citizen initiative in November, that was aimed at denying young adults their Second Amendment right to purchase a semiautomatic rifle. The law, created by Initiative 1639, was a direct reaction to the Florida massacre and a triple shooting in Washington in 2016.
A draft of the Florida report that surfaced last month included the recommendation from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, but now the preliminary report has been officially released. Here’s what the report recommends on Page 104:
“Guardian Program School districts and charter schools should permit the most expansive use of the Guardian Program under existing law to allow personnel—who volunteer, are properly selected, thoroughly screened and extensively trained—to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection and the protection of other staff and students. School districts and charter schools should not restrict the existing Guardian Program only to dedicated guardians, and all districts should expand the guardian eligibility to other school employees now permitted to be guardians.
“Further, the Florida legislature should expand the Guardian Program to allow teachers who volunteer—in addition to those now authorized—who are properly selected, thoroughly screened and extensively trained to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection, and the protection of other staff and students in response to an active assailant incident. The Legislature should modify Florida Statute 30.15 (1)(k) to state that upon, a majority vote of the School Board, the sheriff shall establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises.”
Bluntly, the commission is not suggesting that all teachers should be armed, and no teacher will be forced to go through the vetting or training.
According to USA Today, “Former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called arming teachers ‘the height of lunacy,’ while Richard Myers, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said few police chiefs back such proposals.”
But the lawmen who served on the commission obviously have a different opinion.
While the Florida preliminary report, which spans 439 pages, is causing some heartburn, an apparent “loophole” in the new Washington law may cause some legal chaos.
As of Jan. 1, young adults aged 18-20 can no longer legally purchase so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles,” which are defined as “any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.” That covers any semi-auto rifle that has ever been manufactured, including .22-caliber rimfires.
But there is a possible technical problem. The part of the law in which that definition is included does not take effect until July 1. The concern of firearms dealers in Lynnwood, North Bend and elsewhere is that the law currently in effect still allows the sale of long guns to young adults.
According to KCPQ, the local Fox affiliate, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility – the Seattle-based and billionaire-supported gun prohibition lobbying group that backed the initiative – issued a statement asserting that dealers who continue to sell long guns are not following “the spirit of the law.”
“It is no mystery which gun sales are affected by the change in purchase age included in the initiative, regardless of the effective date of the definition of semi-automatic assault rifle. Defying the law is a disingenuous attempt to thwart the will of the people and undermine the rule of law in our state.”—Alliance for Gun Responsibility statement
When it comes to the rule of law, the Alliance squawked loudly when Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon disqualified their initiative late last summer because the initiative petitions did not comply with state election law. Only by what critics considered to be strenuous legal acrobatics did the state’s liberal Supreme Court reverse Judge Dixon’s ruling and allow the measure back on the ballot a week later.
It is not “the spirit of the law” that may carry the day, but the letter of the law, and in this case, that law does not become effective for another six months, leaving gun dealers in what appears to be a legal limbo.
Meanwhile, the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association are challenging portions of the law in federal court.