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Florida Lawmaker On Guns In Schools


A number of the students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived this week's armed attack that killed 17 students and staff have demanded that legislators take action to cut down on guns. State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Central Florida, disagrees. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association for what they called his strong, proven record of actively protecting Second Amendment rights. Senator Baxley joins us now. Thank you very much, sir.

DENNIS BAXLEY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: You've sponsored a bill that would allow certain school officials to carry firearms so long as they're trained and had a criminal background check. But it doesn't require someone to undergo a mental health screening.

BAXLEY: Yes, sir. In fact, it does at this point.

SIMON: The bill does require a mental health screening?

BAXLEY: Yes, it does.

SIMON: Forgive me. Has that just been added?

BAXLEY: Yes, it has. And here, we have refined this approach. I've actually pulled this bill back because I want to look at every option. What we're dealing with is the fact with a gun-free zone, we have inadvertently made these students a sterile target. And they enter this campus knowing no one is prepared to stop them. And I'm very interested in what happens in that first five minutes so that we could prevent an incident from becoming a massacre.

And we have security people. We have a lot of trained military people. And with some additional training, they're embedded in these faculties. They already have responsibility for security. And we could have a concealed weapon on these people so they could immediately act to change the directive. There's many focuses on how we deal with this. But I've pulled this bill back at this point because I think we should look at every option on how to surgically place an armed resistance in that first five minutes, so we don't have an incident turn into a massacre.

SIMON: But, senator, I have to ask, is that really a reliable, practical way to try and cut down on school shootings - to tell students, don't worry. Someone will be along to shoot the guy who's trying to shoot you? Doesn't that seem just to invite more firepower?

BAXLEY: No. What happens is we call law enforcement, and they get there as quick as they can. But in many settings, what happens in that first five minutes has already determined the direction of the event escalating. And if we don't deal with that - that's not the only campus...

SIMON: But wouldn't it be easier and wiser to just prevent a shooter from coming into the school and shooting up the school anyway?

BAXLEY: Absolutely. There's a number of focuses that need to be taken. And there are prevention focuses that need to be taken. But we have got to deal with that first five minutes and immediate response. It changes everything.

SIMON: I have to ask you, senator, in half a minute we have left - you're outraged by the fact that, by its own admission, the FBI apparently didn't follow up on a tip?

BAXLEY: I am. I think that's a real breakdown in the safety net of how we can prevent these things. There's a lot of prevention tools that need to go to work. Our first obligation is to fund school safety. And we're committed to that in the Senate to increase that right away. But I don't want to get into this whole gun debate. In order to solve this problem, we need a way to focus on breaking the sterile target so that we're not giving the message to - some of these people will sift through no matter how much prevention we do.

SIMON: Forgive me - is a sterile target unarmed children? Is that what you mean?

BAXLEY: It's telling you that no one on that campus will be able to resist you. And that is the wrong message. We need to say there is an armed presence to protect our children. And they're already charged with the security. Many of these faculty are from the military with additional training and screening. We can have strategically, surgically placed security people to interfere in that first five minutes.

SIMON: Thank you for your time, sir. We have to go on. State Senator Dennis Baxley of Florida, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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