A month after a shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead, Pennsylvania legislators are once again mulling whether to arm teachers and other school employees.
Sen. Don White, a Republican from Indiana County, has introduced in each of the three most recent sessions legislation that would allow school districts to create their own policies about whether employees who receive training should be permitted to access guns on school property.
His first two efforts failed. Now, at a time when national debates about gun control and school safety have intensified, his bill has advanced farther than ever before after 5 years of trying to spite a Republican legislative body and a Democratic Governor who has armed state police officers protecting him. Governor Tom Wolf said he would veto any bill that allows teachers to carry guns.
His bill would allow each of the state’s roughly 500 school districts to “establish a policy permitting school personnel access to firearms in the buildings or on the grounds of a school.”
The Govenor points out that there are nearly 2,000 school resource, security or police officers in state schools, roughly a quarter of whom are authorized to carry guns, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Mr. White’s bill would allow school districts, if they desire, to expand that list to permit other employees, include teachers, nurses and administrators, to bring guns to school.
Wolf also points to recent events where a teacher winged a student in the neck after his gun accidentally fired in a classroom.
Mr. White, whose district includes the Franklin Regional High School where 20 students and a security guard were injured when a student carried out a knife attack in 2014, said when the bill came up for a Senate vote that he fears the police response time could be slow in some rural areas where the nearest departments are far away according to a Post Gazette article published today.
“This damage was all done in 4 minutes and 50 seconds,” Mr. White said when the bill came up for a vote on the Senate floor. “Police protection was 2½ minutes away, and yet he was able to accomplish what he did, and we can only imagine what would have happened if he had an automatic weapon.”
However while the bill could pass, if vetoed it could not likely be over ridden.