Maine State Senator Proposes Bill To Allow Teachers To Carry Guns In School
The death of 20 students and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school last month has pushed gun control and school safety to the forefront in Augusta.One lawmaker is proposing a bill that would allow teachers and school employees to carry concealed firearms in schools.The question that’s being asked around the halls of the state house: would our schools be safer if teachers had the option of carrying concealed weapons? State Senator David Burns, a Whiting Republican, says yes. Burns, a retired state trooper, has proposed legislation that would give school employees that option. “The fact that a person was armed would not be common knowledge,” Burns said Wednesday. “Only school officials and law enforcement would know.”Burns’ bill is more complex than simply arming teachers. It would require those school employees who planned on carrying a gun to undergo a thorough screening. “Psychological evaluation similar to what we do with perspective police officers. Then it would also involve a training very similar to what we administer to new police officers before they’re certified and able to carry a weapon,” Burns said, describing just some of what a school employee would have to go through before being cleared to carry a gun on school property.But not everyone is on board with Burns’ plan. At their regularly scheduled press briefing Wednesday, Democratic leaders raised questions about the plan. “My number one question is, is it safe to have more weapons in schools? Is that really where we want to go?” asked House Majority Leader Seth Berry, a Democrat from Richmond. “What happens if a gun is left lying around by accident? And this has happened in schools where security guards have accidentally left a weapon in the bathroom, that sort of thing.” Lois Kilby-Chesley, President of the Maine Education Association also spoke out in opposition to armed school employees. “There are many opportunities for mistakes when we have people armed in schools,” Kilby-Chesley said. “There is no proof they will be in the right place at the right time. In Sandy Hook, the tragedy was over in a matter of minutes and armed employees at the other end of the building would not have made a difference. We can’t have armed guards at every classroom.”Burns admits this option wouldn’t fit all schools, but he says for some it could provide an extra layer of defense. “First and foremost, this is not a mandate,” Burns said. “This would be an option for school districts that have very few options available to them and I’m thinking specifically of rural communities where law enforcement resources are very slim.”The bill will be assigned to committee soon with public hearings to follow.