Despite nationwide calls for strengthened gun controls, the Kansas legislature is mulling over a bill that would effectively require school teachers to carry guns.
House Bill 2789—which proposes the creation of the Staff as First Emergency Responders Act—seeks to hold schools legally accountable for shootings if they prohibit their teachers from carrying firearms.
The bill—drafted in the wake of a shooting last month that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—was first presented to the state’s House Committee on Insurance on Tuesday.
“Inside our schools there are sleeping dogs willing to protect our kids,” Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter, who helped draft the presumption of negligence provision, argued in Tuesday’s hearing, which ended after two hours in a no-vote.
“The day will come when we’ll have to face this fear,” echoed Joseph Clay, an Iraq War veteran and Wichita math teacher. “Our children are not safe on campus in Kansas.”
Kansas City Star columnist Melinda Henneberger, however, noted that Clay’s testimony undermined his point:
“At one point, he apologized to lawmakers: ‘I feel like I’m getting a little aggressive with you guys.’ And at another, he described his 3-year-old son as someone who ‘has a temper, like his daddy.’ An opponent of the bill later cited Clay, ‘with all due respect,’ as exactly the sort of person who has her convinced that arming teachers would make her children less safe.”
The bill would further prohibit insurers from denying coverage to schools that allow its teachers to carry guns.
Concealed carry was legalized on the state-level in Kansas public K-12 schools in 2013, but with the provision that individual school districts could ban firearms from certain buildings on school grounds but not the “grounds” itself—a blurry distinction at best.
Democratic committee member and ELL teacher Rep. Brett Parker told the Associated Press, “The further we go down this rabbit hole, the more chance there is for even more obnoxious legislation moving forward.”
Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer and nonfiction MFA candidate at Columbia University.