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Bill that would have armed teachers rejected by Louisiana lawmakers

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Paul Braun
/
WRKF
Rep. Danny McCormick's HB37, which originally would have allowed for permitless carry of concealed firearms, was amended to arm some teachers and school administrators. It failed without a final vote in the Senate.

A controversial effort to arm some Louisiana teachers and administrators to combat school shooters failed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

Rep. Danny McCormick’s gun legislation – House Bill 37 – started out as a permitless carry proposal that would have allowed Louisianans over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without undergoing the training, registration and permitting process currently required under state law. But in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, state lawmakers on the Senate’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee decided to refocus the bill on school safety.

Sen. Eddie Lambert (R-Gonzales) introduced amendments in committee last week that rewrote McCormick’s bill in its entirety, removing provisions of the law that would have allowed for permitless carry and inserting new language that would allow schools to designate some faculty and administrators as “school protection officers” who would be permitted carry concealed firearm on campus.

The legislation would have required the protection officers to have Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) certification, the minimum standard training requirements for all law enforcement officers in the state.

Lambert said the overhaul of the bill represented lawmakers' last opportunity to pass legislation that could combat school shootings on site. Lawmakers were well past the deadline to file new legislation, but they were able to propose sweeping changes to legislation with similar subject matter.

“The question is, ‘Do we pass something that maybe can prevent something?’” Lambert said. “Because this is our last time to do it.”

McCormick did not immediately endorse the rewrite of his bill, telling reporters last week that he would have to consider the changes before he would ask his House colleagues to vote in favor of the legislation. The Oil City Republican eventually asked his House colleagues to urge the Senate to take up the measure in the final days of the legislative session, but the upper chamber declined to do so, and the bill died without a final vote.

Earlier in the day, the Louisiana House passed a handful of resolutions, which do not carry the full force of law, that would allow lawmakers to study safety and security in schools.

HR208 by Rep. Jonathan Goudeau (R-Lafayette) urges and requests that all Louisiana principals conduct active shooter drills four times a year — just as often as fire drills.

“When’s the last time you remember a school catching on fire,” Goudeau asked, implying that training for school shootings was a more pressing need for Louisiana students.

HR218 by Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath), Vanessa Caston Lafleur (D-Baton Rouge) and Ray Garofalo (R-Chalmette) requests that the state department of Education study school safety issues and report their findings and any recommendations for legislation to the House Education Committee before the start of the spring 2023 legislative session.

Similarly, Rep. Thomas Pressly (R-Shreveport) urged his House colleagues to get “off the merry-go-round of inaction” and offered HR236, which empowers House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to appoint 10 House members to a special committee that will study the issue of gun violence in schools.

Lawmakers have previously considered legislation that would arm some teachers and school staff to combat active shooters.

In 2018, weeks after a shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida reignited a national debate around gun safety and schools, Rep. Ray Garofalo (R-Chalmette) introduced legislation that would have allowed any teachers and school administrators with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms on campus. The bill failed in its first committee hearing.

That same year, similar legislation by then-state senator Ryan Gatti (R-Bossier City) would have allowed armed volunteers or law enforcement officers to patrol schools. It too failed in its first committee hearing.

Lambert’s proposal borrowed elements from both those earlier bills but imposed higher training requirements on prospective “school protection officers.”