WFSU News Team
Mon March 31, 2014
'Pop Tart' Gun Bill Still Moving In Florida Senate
Several gun-related measures will be taken up this week either by a group of lawmakers or the full body. They include controversial measures, like the so-called “Warning Shot” bill and another that allows for someone to carry a gun without a permit during a declared state of emergency. And, there’s another less heated issue dubbed the “Pop Tart” bill.”
Speaking to a Senate Education Committee, bill sponsor, Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) started off with a joke.
“Just in case folks forgot to eat breakfast this morning, I brought a box of Pop Tarts," joked Evers to a some laughter.
But, it was no laughing matter for a seven-year-old Maryland boy who was suspended from school for chewing the breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.
And, Evers says similar disciplinary actions are going on in Florida schools with regard to their zero tolerance policies. He adds one even happened in his district with a 10-year-old kid talking about a toy gun in school, while working on a book report.
“He was looking at a picture of Annie Oakley or whatever her name is and she had a shot gun there, and he told one of his friends ‘I’ve got a shotgun that shoots caps at home.’ The teacher overheard this, referred him to the principal, and he stayed in the principal’s office for three hours, asking about guns in the home, where his mother kept them, and he continued to tell them that he had a cap gun,” said Evers.
Evers says things escalated from there because the 10-year-old almost got a juvenile record.
“The school suspended him pending a school board meeting and the incident was reported to the Sheriff, but thank God, the Sheriff had a little common sense, and didn’t file a report because he hadn’t broken any laws. The boy is still not allowed to go to school,” added Evers.
So, Evers’ aim is to revise schools’ zero tolerance policies and give guidance to school administrators to make sure students aren’t punished for simulating a firearm with their finger, or saying the words “bang, bang,” or wearing clothes bearing images of firearms.
“This type of punishment, you know, infringes on the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and I can think of some other things it infringes on. But, this is the Education committee. This is about the education about our kids, and why are we punishing kids and not using a little common sense. So, let’s let kids be kids,” added Evers.
The so-called “Let Kids Be Kids” bill was given that name by the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer.
“No matter what you call this bill, nothing mitigates the pain, embarrassment, and stigma caused to young children and their families, when zero-tolerance runs awry. The misguided actions of school administrators who are trying to enforce an overly broad policy that apparently doesn’t provide any real guidance is traumatizing children and families," said Hammer.
Despite the unanimous committee support on the original bill, Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) tried to change the measure to include zero-tolerance policies as a whole, not just with regard to guns. Still, his amendment failed. But, Evers promised to work on that as a separate issue in the future, and Bullard says he’s hopeful.
“Some of the disproportionate effects of minorities as it relates to zero-tolerance have been well-documented by both the U.S. Department of Justice as well as any number of organizations here in the state of Florida. So, it will be my hope, if not this session, in the very, very near future, we begin to look at the glaring numbers of black and brown youth that are disproportionately affected by policies that have been adopted by the state,” said Bullard.
Meanwhile, the Senate measure’s companion has already passed the House with most Democrats opposed. Another of Evers’ bills—the so-called "Warning Shot" bill—will be voted on in the Senate Tuesday.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.