S.C. proposal: Let some teachers carry guns

abeam@thestate.comDecember 18, 2012 

Public school employees with concealed weapons permits could carry guns in South Carolina schools if a bill filed Tuesday in the state House of Representatives becomes law.

The bill comes less than a week after 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people – including 20 children – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

“The people who are doing these heinous crimes realize that there are no guns at all in a school. All they have to do is get ... in the door,” said state Rep. Phillip Lowe, R-Florence, who proposed the bill. “Even with one person watching the door, all (a shooter) has to do is take that one person out and they know the rest of the school is completely defenseless.

“This (bill) would put doubt in that person’s mind.”

Lowe’s proposal immediately met with heated opposition.

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, called the idea “idiotic.”

“What Phillip Lowe is doing in response to the tragedy in Newtown is purely political. It makes no sense, and it is idiotic,” said Sellers, adding he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and supports the right to carry guns. “I don’t think there is any way Phillip Lowe or anyone else from the NRA (National Rifle Association) can tell me we can make our children safer by putting more guns in school.”

The national outpouring of grief after the Connecticut slayings, including 20 slain 6- and 7-year-old students, has produced a wave of proposals. Some include better mental-health services for troubled youths, such as the reportedly troubled Lanza. Other proposals would ban assault-type rifles or large ammunition magazines. Still, others, including Lowe, suggest part of the solution could be to arm those in schools.

The Harrold Independent School District in Texas has allowed teachers to carry guns since 2008, a controversial move that has received more attention since the Connecticut shooting. In Michigan, state lawmakers passed a bill last Thursday – a day before the Newtown school shooting – that would have allowed people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools. However, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the bill Tuesday.

Lowe’s proposed S.C. law would allow school boards to deny an employee’s request to carry a gun on school grounds – but only “upon a finding of just cause.” The bill would allow employees to carry guns on school property if they:

•  Have a state-issued concealed weapons permit

•  Keep the weapon concealed on them at all times

•  Use only frangible – “soft” – bullets that avoid ricochets

•  Provide written notification of the weapon to the school principal

•  Have no history of violence or unmanaged anger documented by the school district

The bill will be assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where new chairman Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said he would give the bill a hearing.

“It might need some further work, but we’ll certainly give him a hearing on it,” said Delleney. “It is worthy of considering, particularly if a school board wants to do that.”

Scott Price, general counsel for the S.C. School Boards Association, said he is glad the bill would give school boards veto power over teachers carrying guns but added he still is uncomfortable with the proposal.

“Most schools have resource officers that are there who are armed, and I just think that we would be concerned about a measure like that, that could potentially place more guns in schools,” Price said.

The 2013 legislative session begins Jan. 8.

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