While the country is consumed with debate on gun rights verses gun control legislation in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school, Kansas may be making a move further than any other state in the nation.
Ten10 states across America have provisions in place giving teachers the option of carrying guns in schools. Kansas schools that refuse to allow teachers to carry guns could be held legally responsible if a tragedy occurs under a proposal drafted recently.
Gun rights advocates argue that a teacher with a gun is not only a deterrent to a school shooter but also the first line of defense in protecting students.
Rep. Blake Carpenter, a GOP conservative who helped write the legislation that holds schools liable, said he is confident armed and trained teachers will save lives. In smaller districts within the state where funds may limit the ability to hire school resource officers, police could be minutes away. Carpenter said that the bill would allow for the “next best thing,” he told the House Insurance Committee in Kansas.
“It is not ‘if’ our kids will be killed. It is, when will they be killed and what are we doing to prevent it?” Carpenter said.
This legislation was started by Kansas officials a week after the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people.
Opponents of the measure expressed concern that it could efficiently mandate arming teachers rather than allowing it, as several states have done.
“It would certainly open the door for that conversation,” said Democratic Rep. Brett Parker, an Overland Park school teacher. Parker said he has received 284 pieces of written testimony opposing the bill. Much of the opposition is from teachers who are unhappy with the prospect of being armed and working alongside others who may or may not be.
“We’re inventing new ways, it seems, to drive people out of the teaching profession in Kansas,” Parker said.
Another proposal up for debate focuses on improving school infrastructure instead of arming the staff. That measure has more broad support and won approval on Tuesday.
Kansas law has allowed teachers to carry concealed guns since 2013, but school districts across the state have disallowed the practice after the state’s primary school insurer, EMC Insurance Companies, refused to provide coverage to schools with armed staff.
Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman opposed the bill, saying that insurance providers could still choose to deny coverage. And even if the insurer was willing to provide coverage, Tillman said the rates would become very expensive.
But Carpenter said that for an insurance company to deny coverage of even increase rates, they would have to prove that having armed staff creates a higher risk environment.