Bill to arm school employees passes committee

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Bill to arm school employees passes committee

A bill that would allow school districts to arm employees gained the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee’s approval Tuesday.

House Bill 35, introduced by Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, would give local school boards the authority to designate any number of employees to carry concealed weapons. The bill would provide some training criteria but largely leaves the decision-making on such issues to the local school boards, Battles said. The person or people appointed to carry firearms would have to obtain a weapons carry permit in addition to meeting other requirements, such as undergoing a background check.

The move is voluntary, and school districts are not required to participate.

The bill was approved after the committee ironed out issues related to liability coverage, defined background checks for criminal and mental health history, and clarified that an employee cannot be penalized for turning down the position. The original bill allowed for school boards to appoint an administrator to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, but that was expanded to other employees.

“It could be the maintenance man, it could be the teacher, it could basically be anyone there once they’ve met a certain level of proficiency,” said Committee Chairman Alan Powell, R-Hartwell.

Battles said the bill is a cost-saving measure, as many school districts cannot afford to hire police officers. HB 35 now heads to the Rules Committee for consideration.

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