A bill that would allow public school teachers or administrators who successfully complete a basic police course academy for reserve deputies to bring loaded handguns to school passed a legislative committee Wednesday.
It is the first Oklahoma school security measure advanced by lawmakers since the Sandy Hook massacre in December. Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, were shot and killed by a disturbed man in Newtown, Conn. Six adults also were killed.
Under House Bill 1062, local school boards would decide whether to allow trained teachers and administrators to be armed in their schools. Teachers and administrators would have to go through a six-week reserve officer training, through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, to be permitted to carry firearms on school campuses.
“I understand the controversy,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, the bill's author. “I understand the risks. … You could have misuse of a firearm, absolutely.
“I don't agree with letting people strap on a gun and walk into a school,” he said. “It's too sensitive of an environment.”
McCullough said his measure would allow each school district to develop its own security plans.
“There is nothing in this bill that prohibits a school district from hiring resource officers,” He said. “That's my stated preference. … The best choice is if we could staff each of our schools with a paid resource officer.”
Otherwise, he said, teachers and administrators could go through the same screening and training that reserve deputies go through.
Many details in his bill, such as who would pay for the training and equipment costs for teachers, still have to be worked out, McCullough said.
Training costs money
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said after the committee meeting that it could cost about $3,000 to train and equip each teacher. He said McCullough's bill has merit, especially in rural parts of the state that don't have available funds to hire school resource officers or deputies.
“They just don't have the money to hire a full-time school resource officer to put in those schools,” he said. “And rather than leave them unprotected, what this does is allow the board of education and the sheriff's or police department to work together and at least put a trained person inside that school.”
Whetsel said his department has resource officers throughout the county, in public schools such as Millwood and Deer Creek and Jones High School.
Monte Thompson, superintendent of Wagoner Public Schools, told committee members he opposed the measure. Oklahoma has had only three school shootings, and two of them — both in the past couple months — were suicides, he said.