As Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi renews efforts to pass gun control legislation, leaders in some conservative states are instead pushing bills to arm teachers in their classrooms.
In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, lawmakers from both political parties have sought to propose legislation they say would prevent future mass shootings. Democrats have proposed stricter gun regulations, while Republicans are backing bills to “harden” schools and allow teachers to carry firearms.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday she plans to bring gun control legislation up for a vote this week.
One bill, the Protecting Our Children Act, would raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21 years old, ban civilians from using high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, require background checks on ghost guns, “crack down” on gun trafficking, and strengthen storage requirements.
A second bill, the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, would institute red flag laws that would allow authorities to remove firearms from people who they believe to be a danger to themselves or others.
“Saving our children can and must be a unifying mission for our nation,” Pelosi wrote in a Dear Colleagues letter. “To all those in the Congress who would stand in the way of saving lives: your political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of our children. We will not rest until the job is done.”
Though both bills are likely to pass the House, they will likely face more opposition in the evenly-divided Senate, where they would need to garner 60 votes in order to pass. However, most Republicans remain opposed to gun control measures.
The GOP has long floated the idea of allowing teachers to carry guns at school, saying doing so would prevent mass shootings from being as deadly as they are. Critics, however, argue that arming teachers would be dangerous, and that it would be difficult to train them to properly respond to active shooters.
Despite concerns, at least two Republican-led state legislatures—Ohio and Louisiana—are considering bills that would make it substantially easier for teachers to carry guns at school.
In Ohio, Republican legislators passed a bill last week that would significantly lower the amount of training teachers would need to be able to carry guns in the classroom, the Ohio Capital Journal reported.
Current law requires teachers to go through more than 700 hours of training, but the bill would allow them to be armed after only 24 hours of training unless local school boards require more.
Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, said in a statement on Thursday that he plans to sign the bill into law.
“My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training,” he wrote.
Lawmakers in Louisiana changed a bill meant to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit into a bill that would allow teachers to have guns at school if they are trained following last week’s mass shooting, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
State Senator Eddie Lambert, a Republican, proposed an amendment allowing public schools to allow designated volunteers, who would undergo training, to be able to carry guns. However, the bill may face difficult obstacles, as the state Senate adjourns Monday evening, and Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has yet to comment on it.
Republican leaders in other states have also considered similar legislation. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is “open” to the idea, but his top priority is increasing the number of armed guards in schools, his spokesperson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an article published late last month.
At least 28 states already allow some school staff to carry firearms in some cases as long as they meet certain conditions, according to a 2020 RAND Corporation report. The report found “no qualifying studies” about whether or not the policy prevents school shootings. Texas allows teachers to become school marshals, but saw fewer than 300 teachers participate in the program, according to Politico.
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