During a hearing in the House Insurance Committee Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Topeka, Kansas, Nick Diegel, an Overland Park resident and parent of a Blue Valley district student, spoke in opposition to a bill that would help Kansas teachers to carry concealed weapons in their classrooms. Diegel also referred to Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican who last year took out a gun from a single holder and accidentally on the floor of a House meeting of the commission. (Thad Allton /The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
In the aftermath of last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, at least 10 states in America have provisions in place to give teachers the possibility of the carrying of weapons in schools, but in Kansas can take their plans further than most other laws in place or pending.
Kansas schools who refuse to allow teachers to carry weapons can be held legally liable in the event of a school tragedy under a proposal drawn up 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 the protection of students.
Rep. Blake Carpenter, a conservative Derby Republican who helped write the legislation that holds schools liable, said that he is convinced armed and trained teachers will save lives. The police could be minutes, and in smaller districts where modest funding means school-resource officers are not hired, the bill would allow for the “next best thing”, he told the House Insurance Committee in Kansas.
“It is not, if our children will be killed. It is, when they will be killed, and what do we do to prevent it?” Carpenter said.
Kansas lawmakers began to work on school safety legislation a week after the Valentine’s Day shooting in the Park, Florida, left 17 students and staff of the death.
There are about 10 states that allow concealed carry weapons on school campuses, such as Utah, as Fox News previously reported; and while the majority of the states have laws that everyone carrying a gun on school property, there are a select few, such as Ohio and Missouri, where the school districts can override state law and allow their staff to carry weapons.
Opponents of the measure, which got its first hearing Tuesday in front of the House Insurance Committee, expressed concern can effectively mandate arming teachers instead of, as several states have done.
“It would certainly open the door for a conversation,” said Democratic Rep. Brett Parker, a Overland Park teacher at school. “The further we go down this rabbit hole, the more chance there is for even more unpleasant legislation forward.”
Even if that provision is removed, as some attorneys suggested during the discussion of the bill would prohibit insurers from denying coverage for a school because it let the teachers or staff to carry weapons.
Parker said he has received 284 pieces of written testimony against the bill, many of the teachers dissatisfied with the prospect of an armed and working together with others that may or may not.
“We are inventing new ways, it seems, people from the education system in Kansas,” Parker said.
The proposal is separately embraced by the Republican leaders in the House that focuses on improving the infrastructure of the school in place of the engagement of staff. That measure, which seems to be a wider support, won the first round approval on Tuesday.
Gun control advocates say that the part that assumes guilt against school districts is highly unusual and seems to match closely with the concealed carry laws usually applied to companies in some states, and not of the schools.
Kansas law has permitted teachers to carry concealed weapons since 2013, but school districts across the country have rejected the practice after EMC insurance companies, the state of the primary insurer refused to provide coverage for schools with armed personnel.
Kansas Association of school boards lobbyist Mark Tallman against the bill. He said, insurers may still choose to deny coverage, but the schools have no other choice, but to the staff to arm themselves regardless. Even if an insurer is willing to under such circumstances, Tallman said, the rates would become very expensive.
Carpenter said for an insurance company to raise rates or outright refuse to cover a school, would have to prove that having an armed staff provides a higher-risk environment.
According to the Ministry of Education, 286 local school districts expect to spend $23.7 million on insurance in the current school year, not including health insurance. No testimony during the hearing, predict what that expense would be if the legislation passes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.