HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/AP) — Pennsylvania’s Senate is advancing legislation that would set ground rules for school districts that allow employees to possess a gun on school grounds.
Senators approved the bill 28-22 on Wednesday after an emotional hour-long debate. The bill still requires approval in the House, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he opposes it.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don White, says he wants to give school districts as many tools as possible to protect children from would-be killers. Sen. Daylin Leach opposed the bill, and read a letter on the Senate floor written by educators who survived the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut saying that having guns wouldn’t have made them or their students safer.
“Time is a critical element when a violent incident occurs in a school. Many schools in rural areas rely on State Police coverage, which means response times can vary. Senate Bill 383 gives trained school personnel the opportunity to serve as first responders,” said Senator White. “If it becomes law, I will sleep better at night knowing our school districts have more tools at their disposal to fight the unspeakable evil that causes a few in our society to seek to harm our children.”
Employees would be required to have a concealed carry license, pass a psychological evaluation and meet certain firearms training requirements.
“Since I first introduced this proposal, there has been much discussion about what the measure does and how it relates to current Pennsylvania law,” Senator White said. “To be clear, this bill is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about permitting the 500 school districts of this Commonwealth to have greater choices when it comes to protecting our most precious resource – our children.”
But suburban Philadelphia Democrat Daylin Leach, whose mother was a teacher, says the bill would do more harm than good.
“The idea of her shooting it out with a madman with a semi-automatic weapon is utterly preposterous,” Leach said.
Republican Jake Corman, the Senate majority leader, said it’s a matter of giving local school authorities options…
“I do trust them,” Corman said. “I do feel comfortable if they would implement this they would do it in a way that be safe.”
A spokesman for the House majority leader says the House is not expected to take up the bill anytime soon.
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