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Texas teachers can pack heat; Florida lawmakers pushing for options

The issue of making schools safe is on the minds of every school and parents in America. In North Texas, two districts think they have found the best approach, which involves giving employees guns.

PARKLAND, Florida -- Florida lawmakers are already pushing for a law that would allow teachers to carry guns on campuses in the wake of a high school shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead.

The suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, targeted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz was a former student at the school and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), told reporters early Thursday that he vowed to work on making schools safer. That concern is on the minds of every school parent in America.

In North Texas, two districts think they have found the best approach, which involves giving employees guns.

Just south of Denton, the Argyle Independent School District designated in 2014 to select amount of employees to carry guns on campuses to prevent a mass shooting. At Keene Independent School District, school leaders voted to do the same thing in 2015.

It’s all possible through the Protection of Texas Children Law that was passed in 2013. The law allows districts in the state to create “school marshals” for campuses. Those marshals are usually employees at campuses.

To become a school marshal, those employees must undergo extensive active shooter and firearms training with the state. They must also undergo a mental health evaluation.

They receive a school marshal designation by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and must renew their license every two years by undergoing the same training and evaluation.

Outside of campuses in Keene and Argyle, signs warn visitors that there are staff members who are armed and are prepared to protect children.

Parents in Argyle told WFAA Thursday that they’re proud of their district taking a step towards protecting their children.

“It’s comforting, and it does make you feel better,” Danielle Spaulding said.

“I absolutely love it. Just knowing that my children are a lot safer, and that teachers know what to do if a shooting occurred,” Tori Bernal said.

In Keene, Superintendent Ricky Stephens said creating school marshals was needed.

“Administrators and teachers are going to be the first ones who arrive, so do you want them to arrive with a pencil or a pistol?” Stephens said.

At the time the law was passed, concerns were raised about giving teachers so much responsibility in an active shooter situation.

Keene ISD Chief Ronny Potts dismissed criticism that teachers aren’t prepared to respond.

“I would have them back me up as a police officer because they’re qualified. They’re determined to survive, and to save kids,” Potts said.

Other concerns surrounded the possibility of firearms getting into the hands of students.

According to the law, weapons must be in a safe -- or on the marshal at all times.

Lawmakers in Florida are currently trying to amend a state law that prohibits firearms on school grounds.

If passed, the bill would let employees carry guns on campuses if they passed background checks and were certified with training created by the state’s Criminal Justice Standards.

Other lawmakers have expressed interest in introducing similar legislation in other states since the shooting.

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