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March 13, 2013

House approves bill to allow armed teachers

OKLAHOMA CITY — Public school districts across Oklahoma could decide whether to allow armed teachers in classrooms under a bill approved late Tuesday in the Oklahoma House.

The Special Reserve School Resource Officer Act passed by the House on a 68-23 vote despite concerns raised by opponents over the safety and liability allowing armed teachers.

“Our children are grossly unprotected from an active violent threat,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, who introduced the bill in part as a response to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn. “We don’t need to be willfully ignorant of the fact that this could happen.”

The bill would give districts the option of paying for teachers to receive a minimum of 120 hours of specialized training in order to carry a firearm into the school. The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training would be directed to develop a specialized training course for volunteer teachers.

Some members questioned whether 120 hours is adequate training for a teacher to be able to carry a gun around children.

“This sounds like bargain basement security for kids,” said Rep. Corey Williams, D-Stillwater. “It doesn’t sound like we’re doing much more than sexy lip service.”

Rep. Curtis McDaniel, a former school administrator, said most teachers don’t have three weeks to spend on volunteer training.

“This bill is the cheap way out,” said McDaniel, D-Smithville. “We just give teachers another job to do.”

McCullough said he intends to push for a $500,000 appropriation to school districts that would pay for training for up to 250 volunteers. He said rural school districts would be more likely to take advantage of the program.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

A separate bill approved by the House on Tuesday would allow private schools to establish their own policies on carrying firearms on campuses.


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