SACRAMENTO — A group of Republican state lawmakers Wednesday proposed allowing school districts to spend education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors in gun use.
Responding to last month’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the lawmakers said arming school personnel would help protect campuses against violent intruders.
“The idea is to create essentially an invisible line of defense around our kids,” said Assemblyman and tea party adherent Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino. He and one of his coauthors announced the proposal at a Capitol news conference.
Donnelly, who is exploring a run for governor, said his bill was an alternative to a dozen introduced by Democrats to impose tighter gun controls, some of which he called a violation of the right to bear arms. He invoked the name of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed trying to protect her students.
“We have a moral obligation that the next Vicki Soto who is faced with inexplicable evil … not be left defenseless,” he said. If she were armed, “she would have the ability to stop or at least slow down the killer.”
He said the proposal, AB 202, is modeled after the federal air marshal program, which assigns armed, plainclothes officers to many commercial flights to guard against terrorism.
Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a former school psychologist, said the bill would face insurmountable opposition in the Legislature.
“With all due respect to my Republican colleagues, that [bill] is just absolutely ludicrous,” Yee said. “I don’t know of any educator who would be interested in packing a gun into a school.”
Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who has introduced legislation requiring every school to have a safety plan for emergencies, said Donnelly’s bill goes in the wrong direction.
“The goal of school safety is not to see who can win a gunfight,” Lieu said. “It is to prevent shootings in the first place and keep guns out of schools.”
Donnelly, who was once fined more than $2,200 for taking a loaded gun to Ontario International Airport, said the school marshal program would ensure that those carrying concealed weapons have permits and training. No one outside the school administration would know the identity of marshals on campus.
Teachers don’t want to assume a role outside their expertise, said Dean Vogel, president of the giant California Teachers’ Assn. Campus police trained in firearms tactics are better suited for the job, he said.
“Putting more guns in schools is really not the way to go,” Vogel said. “Armed security should be left to the experts.”
Supporters of the bill include Republican Assembly members Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills, Diane L. Harkey of Dana Point, Brian Jones of Santee and Donald P. Wagner of Irvine, as well as Republican Sen. Stephen Knight of Palmdale.