School officials in Warren County say guns have no place in classrooms.
"We hire teachers to educate kids, teachers are not police officers. I don't think guns have a place in the classroom or in schools," Warren County School District Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said Tuesday. "I just don't support it here."
State Rep. Greg Lucas, Edinboro (R-5), introduced legislation last week allowing teachers and administrators to complete training similar to law enforcement officers to carry guns into the classroom.
"This is about trusting our teachers to protect students," Lucas said in a press release. "We trust our teachers with our students' minds. However, current law prevents them from defending our children's bodies during an emergency situation. My law would change that."
Lucas, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the general election, was sworn into his first term two weeks ago. The two-page proposed legislation available on his website, www.replucas.com, is called the "School Personnel Right to Carry Act" that he says would not require teachers, principals, administrators or other personnel to carry a firearm.
Warren County Education Association President Claudia Solinko said the proposal "is an extremely complex issue on so many levels - from the worst case scenario to the practical implementation of policies to the funding liabilities."
"We understand and support the intent of the proposal which is to make our students as safe and secure as possible, but believe that any responsibility to return live fire in an active shooter situation should be placed with highly trained and experienced law enforcement and security professionals," she said.
There is no information about how much the proposed legislation would cost to implement or what guidelines personnel would have to follow other than notifying the school district and obtaining a reference from the sheriff.
School personnel who would like to carry a gun into the school would have to pass a "three-point check system."
Lucas said teachers would have to pass a background check that is already in place as a condition of employment and the additional background check would include "investigation of character and reputation by their local sheriff."
"In order to qualify, a teacher would have to acquire the same certification in the use of firearms currently used by law enforcement officers," he said in the press release.
Solinko said instead of turning teachers into law enforcement personnel, "why not work to find the funding to employ existing law enforcement/security professionals through examining corporate tax loopholes or fees from shale gas extraction?"
If school districts should turn to arming school personnel because they can't afford "highly trained law enforcement and security professionals", where will the funding come from to provide 180 hours of training for each member of the district who would like to bring a gun into the school?
"Where would the funding come from to meet what would likely be drastically increased insurance liabilities from arming staff?" Solinko asked.
Lawmakers across the country have announced or have already introduced similar legislation in Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Florida. Representatives from Texas and Kentucky introduced bills that would end federal law requiring areas around schools be designated as gun-free zones.
State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) said last week she wants to hear from educators and district personnel and "certainly would want to gather information locally as to how comfortable the administrators and teachers would feel before I would commit to voting yes on the bill."
"I think it's an interesting concept, I'm definitely pro Second Amendment and certainly support the right to bear arms," she said. "I truly believe it's not the gun that is killing the person, it's the person who is holding the gun."
A poll on the Times Observer website last Wednesday asked, "Is allowing teachers to carry guns in school a good idea?" Forty-three percent of respondents said yes, 42 percent said no and 15 percent said the proposal is the wrong reaction.