California lawmakers propose arming teachers, other school workers
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A group of seven Republican state lawmakers proposed legislation Wednesday that would allow school districts to use education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors to use guns so they can protect campuses from violent intruders.
The lawmakers, led by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino, made the proposal in response to last month’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.
‘The idea is to create essentially an invisible line of defense around our kids,’ Donnelly said at a Capitol news conference.
Donnelly said his AB 202 is an alternative to a dozen proposals by colleagues to impose tighter gun controls, some of which he said are a violation of the constitutional right to bear arms.
He invoked the name of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed trying to defend her students.
‘We have a moral obligation that the next Vicki Soto who is faced with inexplicable evil, that she not be left defenseless. If she was [armed] she would have the ability to stop or at least slow down the killer.’'
The proposal is modeled after the federal air marshal program, which assigns armed, plainclothes air marshals to many commercial airliner flights to guard against terrorism.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-Sacramento), who has worked as a school psychologist, predicted that the bill would face insurmountable opposition in the Legislature. ‘With all due respect to my Republican colleagues, that is just absolutely ludicrous,’ Yee said of the proposal. ‘I don’t know of any educator who would be interested in packing a gun into a school.’
Yee, who has written several gun-control measures, said teachers and administrators would not have the same extensive law enforcement training as air marshals, raising concerns about risk to themselves and students if a gunman is on campus. ‘It’s going to be a shootout,’ Yee predicted. ‘What about stray bullets and hitting each other?’
Donnelly, who once pleaded no-contest to bringing a loaded gun to Ontario airport and was fined more than $2,200 fine, said the school marshal program would provide the same sense of security, making sure those carrying concealed weapons have permits and training and making sure nobody would know who the school marshal is.
Other supporters of the bill are Republican Assembly members Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills, Diane Harkey of Dana Point, Brian Jones of Santee and Don Wagner of Irvine, as well as Republican Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento