Bill to allow teachers to carry guns stalls

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Legislation that would allow teachers and school administrators to carry guns on campuses swiftly ran into problems Wednesday during its first committee outing.

State Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Meraux, pulled House Bill 707 after meeting resistance from former law enforcement officials on the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. He vowed to continue working on the bill.

Guns are banned on school campuses in Louisiana. HB707 would create an exception for teachers and administrators who meet several requirements. First, they would need a concealed handgun permit. They also would need firearms training and the permission of education officials.

Other states already found ways to allow school workers to carry guns.

Garofalo said he did not envision every teacher bringing a gun to school. His goal, he said, was to plant in people’s minds that guns might be present on campus.

“The primary goal here is to send a message to the criminals and the crazies,” he said.

Garofalo said the “gun free zone” signs on school campuses tell criminals that they can go on easy killing sprees, putting children at risk.

“It’s ridiculous, your bill. It’s ridiculous,” state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, told him.

Norton said teachers are not law enforcement officers. Arming them, she said, would endanger children.

Garofalo said he was open to suggestions, and state Rep. Terry Landry immediately offered one.

“You said you would take suggestions. The first suggestion I would have is why don’t you pull this bill, voluntarily?” Landry said.

Landry, D-New Iberia, is a former State Police commander. He said there are bad players in every profession and suggested it would be irresponsible to allow teachers to carry guns without undergoing psychological evaluations.

State Rep. Steven E. Pylant, R-Crowville and a former sheriff, said the training courses mentioned in Garofalo’s legislation basically teach law enforcement officers how to hang onto their weapons. He said most police officers are killed with their own guns.

Pylant said he feared gang-affiliated students grabbing Susie the Teacher’s gun and shooting her with it.

State Rep. Sherman Q. Mack, R-Albany, said he also had concerns about a really big student overpowering a teacher.

Garofalo agreed to yank the bill from the committee’s consideration.

“We may be able to come to a good solution if we take a little more time,” he said.