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PolitiFact FL On School Marshals; Assault Weapons And Mass Shootings

Mar 8, 2018

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran says the state’s pending school marshal program is the “first-of-its kind” in the nation.

And the Congressman representing Parkland said mass shootings went up 200 percent in the decade after the national assault weapons ban expired.

WUSF's Steve Newborn gets to the bottom of these claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, proposed arming teachers in classrooms in the wake of the Parkland shootings. That proposal was watered down, where school officials such as janitors and school resource officers could instead be armed.

On The Ingraham Angle on Fox News, Corcoran said that Florida’s proposal to arm teachers, known as a marshal program, is unlike anything else in the country. The voluntary program would train teachers under the direction of local law enforcement.

"One of the things that we are doing in Florida is we have instituted, as President Trump has suggested, the most robust first-of-its-kind marshal program," Corcoran said Feb. 27 on Fox News.

First of it's kind?  Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:


According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least five states — Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas — passed legislation allowing school employees to carry firearms at K-12 schools in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.

Of those states, the closest plan to Florida’s proposal is in Texas, which has had its own marshal program since 2013. Out of the other four states, Texas requires the most training. South Dakota also has a similar program, just with a different name.

In Texas, districts that choose to enter the program select a volunteer — a teacher, a coach, an administrator with the right to carry guns on school campuses.

There aren’t solid numbers on the size of the program, since the identities of marshals are anonymous, but Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, told Trump that in more than 100 school districts in Texas, teachers and other personnel carry a weapon and are trained to respond to an attack. The Dallas Morning News reported that there has not been any reports of incidents involving marshals at schools.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

 

In our next ruling - also dealing with the fallout from the Parkland shootings - Ted Deutch, the Democratic congressman who represents that district in Broward County, referenced an assault weapons ban enacted during Bill Clinton's administration. For 10 years, sales of assault rifles such as the AR-15 used in Parkland were banned nationwide. Congress failed to extend the ban in 2004. 

Let's be clear, mass shootings went up 200 percent in the decade after the assault weapons ban expired," Deutch said during a Feb. 21 CNN town hall with survivors of the mass shooting. Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling: 

At least one researcher found a significant increase in mass shootings since the assault weapons ban expired. But overall, experts caution against pegging an increase solely to the ban’s expiration, and told us Deutch’s claim is based on a flawed analysis.

Background on assault weapons ban

A federal law from 1994 to 2004 banned the manufacture of 19 military-style assault weapons, assault weapons with specific combat features, "copy-cat" models, and certain high-capacity ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. Congress did not renew the ban once it expired in September 2004.

What happened next?

Advocates on both sides of the gun debate often point to the same report assessing the ban published in 2004 for the U.S. Justice Department.

One key takeaway: The report said it was premature to make a definitive conclusion about the ban’s impact. It said there had been mixed results in reducing criminal use of the banned guns and magazines.

If the ban were to be renewed, it might reduce the number of gunshot victims, but the effect would likely be "small at best and possibly too small for reliable measurement," the report said.

Louis Klarevas, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and has also written about mass shootings, told us his research generally supports Deutch's claim.

Klarevas examined incidents before, during and after the assault weapons ban when six or more people were shot and killed.

• 1984 to 1994: 19 incidents

• 1994 to 2004 (ban is in effect): 12 incidents

• 2004 to 2014: 34 incidents

That shows a 183 percent increase of incidents in the decade after the ban, compared to the years during the ban.

However, several experts also cautioned against concluding that an increase in mass shootings would be solely tied to the expiration of the assault weapons ban.

A critical question in the assessment of the assault weapons ban would be how often assault weapons, however defined, were used in mass shootings, said Gregory Koger, a professor of political science at the University of Miami.

"I do not expect the effect of a ban to be instantaneous, nor to end when the ban ends," Koger said. "If there are a certain number of assault weapons in circulation when the ban goes into effect and these weapons are removed from circulation over time (say, if they are destroyed, become ineffective, or are seized by the police), then the effect of a sales ban increases over time."

Deutch’s claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.