Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday she will withhold comment on a bill that would allow trained public school teachers to bring handguns to schools until she sees the final version of it.
“It's so early in the legislative process so I'll reserve comment on that bill until we see how it comes out at the end of the legislative session because it could go through a lot of changes between now and then,” Fallin said.
The governor said she is looking forward to seeing how recommendations from the Oklahoma Commission on School Safety will be developed into legislation.
House Bill 1062 passed the House 68-23 late Tuesday and is headed to the Senate. The measure would allow public school teachers or administrators who successfully complete a special school resource officer course to bring loaded handguns to school.
An emergency clause, which would make the bill take effect immediately if it is signed into law, failed.
Rep. Mark McCullough, the measure's author, said the emergency clause is essential because it would allow teachers and administrators to take the training this summer before the start of classes.
“We are facing the reality that we could have active violent threats to our schools,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa.
HB 1062 is the first Oklahoma school security measure advanced by lawmakers since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December. Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults were shot and killed by a disturbed man, Adam Lanza, in Newtown, Conn.
Fallin said she is excited with the work done by the Oklahoma Commission on School Safety headed by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb to come up with proposals on school safety. Recommendations include calling for a new security tip line, mental health training for campus workers and a new state institute to continue training, research and advocacy on the issue.
“We're looking forward to seeing where his recommendations go and hopefully the Legislature will take some action on that,” the governor said. “I certainly approve of the general guidelines that had been recommended by the commission … If the bill comes out in that form with those same type guidelines it would certainly be something I'd be very inclined to sign.”
McCullough opposed an attempt to include the school security commission recommendations as part of his bill.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, tried to get the recommendations included in HB 1062, but House members failed to adopt his amendment. Inman also tried to get language added to the bill that would have increased the amount of gun training for school officials.
Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, also was unsuccessful in getting amendments added to HB 1062; one would have provided vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools if they objected to having guns allowed in their public schools and the other would have made public schools provide cellphones in each grade in case of emergencies.
McCullough said school boards would pay for the cost of training; he is working to get $500,000 in state funds set aside to reimburse school boards. He estimates about 250 school teachers and administrators would volunteer to apply for the training in the first year the measure is in effect.
If the bill would become law and school boards approve the measure, the training would be voluntary for teachers and administrators.
HB 1062 would require three weeks of training to complete a special reserve school resource officer course. McCullough said the course is estimated to cost about $2,500 for each teacher or administrator. He said it's possible some law enforcement agencies wouldn't charge a fee or that a private individual or group would pay the cost of the training.
Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, said guns in public schools should be the last option. He suggested bulletproof glass and other security issues should be tried first.
He also said lawmakers should appropriate more money to pay for the training.
“We always try to do it on the cheap,” Kouplen said.
Inman said Democrats were frustrated that the GOP-controlled House took 90 minutes to discuss the bill. Thursday is the deadline for the House to hear and send measures to the Senate to remain alive this year.
Inman said it was especially perturbing because he has been told that the Republican-controlled Senate won't hear the bill.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said no decision has been made. All the House bills will be reviewed and then assigned to committees.
“We will look at everything very seriously and give it all the proper attention that they need,” Bingman said. “I have no idea where anything is going at this point.”