A measure that would allow public school employees to have a handgun on the school campus passed a legislative committee 11-5 last week.
House Bill 3192 would allow school boards to choose and designate a program or a method by which their school can respond to an emergency situation, its author said.
The bill states the said person must either, “possess a valid armed security guard license, hold a valid reserve peace officer certification, possess a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act.”
Under the measure a person may only be allowed to carry if they are not a convicted felon, or convicted of various crimes, and they could not cannot carry the firearm into places where it is prohibited by law.
State Representative Brian Renegar, D-Latimer said he was concerned that the measure would make school employees targets during a shooting. “I hated to be the skunk at a picnic, but are you aware of what happened at Dalton Georgia School? Where the school experienced a teacher being taken into custody and rounds were fired?” he asked.
Representative Jeff Coody, R-Comanche, said he had not.
“We had a shooting, [where] a teacher has been taken into custody when he was armed and fired some rounds off,” Renegar said. “I wonder with all the stuff that’s going on as far as these gun bills that you’ve brought forward if this is the best time to bring up a bill like this.”
Coody said the bill was needed now.
Ashley Burchett-Overholt, a college student, said arming teachers would give students the wrong idea.
“It will Undeniably send the message to our students we do not trust them,” she said. “For this reason alone, I don’t support the notion. Relationships are built on trust, and learning happens when good relationships have been established. Allowing more firearms into schools will hinder the learning process.”
Burchett- Overholt said our culture is one of fighting fire with fire.
“We built the “right to arms” into the Constitution. Given our history, it made sense at the time.” she said. “However, things have changed significantly. We in America really like our guns. But we need to keep the following in mind: Guns aren’t toys. We need to stop treating them as such. Rights aren’t unconditional. We need to stop treating
them as such. No one’s right to own a firearm should outweigh anyone’s right to life. In case we’ve forgotten, that one’s constitutionally protected, too. If it doesn’t change, we’re going to burn the whole thing down,”she said.
As the discussion ended, votes were placed and the bill passed 11 to 5, however, concerns are still being raised after its passage.
Carly Mason, an occupational therapist who requested her name be changed, hopes the bill includes extensive training.
“I personally would not feel comfortable with guns on school grounds except in the hands of people with specialized training to protect kids, and whose sole purpose is for protection,” she said. “I am not a teacher, but I can’t imagine the pressure of being expected to carry a weapon, keep it out of kids’ hands 100 percent of the time, and have
to protect my kids with it if necessary, in addition to performing the job responsibilities I already have.”
Mason said that teachers do enough already, and the focus should be to hire additional security that have extensive training/background in the area, rather than stretching teachers, administration, and support staff any thinner than they already are.
“I just can’t help but think about the possible consequences of having guns in school with people with little training in the use of firearms,” she said.