The House Public Safety Committee voted 8-3 for the bill, which now heads to the full House for a vote, despite objections from school officials and concerns about the potential liability of bringing weapons into schools.
The bill by Rep. Mark McCullough gives individual districts the option of allowing school teachers or administrators to attend a basic police course academy for reserve deputies provided by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. The basic course provides about 240 hours of training on firearms, legal issues, traffic and custody of prisoners.
The measure would require individual school boards to approve the practice and be responsible for adopting policies regarding the carrying of weapons.
“Those that really feel strongly about it and want to go through six weeks of training on their own time, they're probably going to be the ones who would volunteer, and the districts are going to know who the best choices are,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa.
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, whose office has about 200 reserve officers, estimated the cost to his department for training and equipment at about $3,000 per officer.
Oklahoma legislators introduced dozens of measures to expand gun rights in the wake of the December attack in which a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. A task force headed by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a former Secret Service agent, also has been established to make recommendations to the Legislature regarding school safety.
But McCullough said he already had been working on a comprehensive firearms measure and felt compelled to unveil it after the Connecticut shooting.
“I didn't just roll out of bed and file this,” McCullough said. “I've been thinking about school security for a long time, hardening soft targets, the potential for terrorists or madmen to strike soft targets.”
Tulsa County Undersheriff Tim Albin, who offered his support for the measure, said his office has about 140 officers, including several school teachers, on his reserve force.
“We could not operate our agency without our reserves,” Albin said. “They do everything from work the jail, serve court papers, make arrests, transport inmates around the country.”
But several school officials have opposed the measure, including administrators in McCullough's district, arguing that bringing more weapons into schools is a bad idea.
“Bringing guns into our school system, we're going to have more accidental shootings than we have currently with direct shootings,” said Wagoner Public Schools Superintendent Monte Thompson. “I do not think this is the answer.”
All of the lawmakers who opposed the measure voiced concerns over the increased liability concerns that would come with having more guns in a school, and McCullough acknowledged changes needed to be made to the bill.
“Obviously we have to fund it, and there were legitimate issues raised about the liability issue,” McCullough said. “We anticipated some of that in the bill, exempting the employees themselves from any action, but obviously there needs to be a little more robust discussion and a little more detail worked in.”
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy