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HomeGeneralIdaho Moves Forward With Plan to Arm More Teachers Amid Pushbacks

Idaho Moves Forward With Plan to Arm More Teachers Amid Pushbacks

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A man holding a gun
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Teachers in Idaho no longer feel safe. And Idaho’s Republican-led legislature has decided arming them is the best way to go. They are currently pushing one of the nation’s most aggressive efforts to arm teachers to combat school shootings.

It is not terrible. However, there are concerns it would create safety risks by stripping local education officials of the power to decide who can bring a gun into school.

A bill supported by the National Rifle Association is currently moving through Idaho’s Republican-dominated state legislature. If passed, it will allow any public school employee to carry a firearm on the job without school board approval.

Employees would need an enhanced concealed weapons license. It requires an 8-hour course but no proof of shooting skill. Idaho school boards can now authorize teachers and other nonsecurity staff to be armed. They can also set the terms.

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Unsurprisingly, about 15 of Idaho’s 172 school districts and charter schools authorize certain staff to carry arms. Republican Rep. Ted Hill, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that number leaves too many schools unprotected, especially in rural areas. Left to him, every school would have armed security guards, but that isn’t feasible.

Instead, he wants to make it easier for teachers statewide to carry guns in class. Even if a local school board objects. “The mission is to protect children,” Hill said. “What can I do to prevent 50 dead 5-year-olds on the floor of the classroom?”

The bill has passed through Idaho’s House and awaits action in the Senate. And, like the House, it has a Republican supermajority. Lawmakers in several other states are also considering bills that would allow armed school employees or loosen existing restrictions.

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The Idaho measure, House Bill 415, has attracted opposition from law-enforcement organizations, education groups, and gun-control advocates. They worry about the loss of local control and the lack of additional training requirements. Some say both could make classrooms less safe.

“Expecting our educators to face a former student, an angry parent or anybody like that without additional training, we’re asking too much of them,” said Jacqui Hamilton, who leads the state chapter of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action and has a daughter in middle school. “Accidents happen, unintentional shootings happen.”m

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A majority of states allow teachers and nonsecurity staff to carry guns in public schools, at least under some conditions, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control group.

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A few states also allow concealed-carry permit holders to be armed without school board approval, as HB 415 would, according to Krystal LoPilato, a lawyer with gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. 

However, she said the Idaho bill stands out because it would override an established system of local oversight. Some Idaho districts that already allow armed staff don’t want to pass up the ability to vet who gets the privilege.

The Idaho Sheriffs’ Association said a key concern is a clause that seems to ensure legal immunity for any staff member who fires a gun at school. This is  “even if they have done something careless, reckless or criminal.” 

Hill has clarified that the clause was meant to ensure that armed staff wouldn’t be legally obligated to engage a shooter. He even said he would get rid of it to help move the bill out of a Senate committee. Republican Rep. Dan Garner voted for the measure despite what he thinks are “serious concerns,” such as the lack of required threat-assessment training. 

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Hill said he considered requiring more training but found it would require too much money. If his bill passes, he will encourage districts to stick with their training protocols, with hopes that anyone willing to carry at school would voluntarily follow them.

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