A majority of Wichita school board members say they do not support allowing teachers to carry firearms in schools – an option under a bill approved by the Kansas House on Thursday.
“Forget it,” said board member Barbara Fuller, a retired teacher and former teachers union president.
“I cannot believe that it would even be a consideration in public schools. … I look at this Legislature, and I’m not sure where they come from or what they’re doing.”
Under House Bill 2055, known as the Personal and Family Protection Act, most public buildings would either have to have security checkpoints at public entries or allow Kansans with concealed-carry licenses to bring weapons inside.
In addition, local school boards and university and college presidents could designate employees who could carry concealed weapons inside their buildings.
Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said he hopes school boards will take advantage of the law. “Just the fact that they can do that will give the bad guys pause,” he said. “Maybe they’ll think there could be consequences if I go into this building.”
But five of seven board members who set policy for Wichita schools, the state’s largest district, said they oppose allowing teachers to carry weapons.
“In general, I don’t feel guns belong in schools. That will always be my take,” said Sheril Logan, a former assistant superintendent for middle schools who was elected to the board in 2011.
It wouldn’t matter “whether a person has a right to carry a concealed gun – and I’m sure many of our teachers do,” she said. “A gun should be locked up and away from children. If you put a gun in a purse, in a locked closet, it’s not accessible to you anyway in an emergency-type situation.
“I just think there are better ways for us to (improve) security.”
Board member Lanora Nolan said she didn’t have enough information about the proposed legislation to comment Thursday. Messages left for Jeff Davis, a police sergeant and school board vice president, were not returned.
Three other board members – Lynn Rogers, Betty Arnold and Connie Dietz – said they would not support altering the district’s no-weapons policy to allow teachers to carry guns.
“I’m not for taking away a ban on weapons in schools,” Arnold said.
Under current district policy, only school resource officers – trained police officers who work in the high schools – are allowed to carry firearms. Dietz said she wouldn’t support changing that policy.
“If I was a teacher walking around my classroom with a gun strapped to my hip, I personally would not want to do that,” Dietz said. “I think there are other things school districts could do (to improve security), given the money to do it.”
Added Rogers, the board president: “Lots of people are looking for simple solutions to security issues, and I think this is one of them.”
The House passed the proposal on an 84-38 vote, and it now moves to the Senate.
The same bill contains what lawmakers say is a technical error that allows the open carrying of guns in the state Capitol.
Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, said he wanted to let concealed-carry licensees take weapons into the Capitol since they would be allowed to carry in many other public places. But an error in drafting the bill allows open carry, a mistake that he said warrants more debate.
“This is not an insignificant mistake,” he said. Wilson opposes the bill overall.
The Capitol has armed guards and a metal detector at its two primary public entrances; other entrances can be accessed by state employees and contractors who have access badges.
Last year, Capitol security and Topeka police investigated a potential threat after someone spotted a truck near the Statehouse that had homemade fireworks and an empty gun holster in it. The suspect was caught in the tunnel linking the nearby Docking State Office Building to the Capitol. The suspect was later released and was not immediately charged with any crime.
The idea of letting people openly tote guns in the Capitol will almost certainly be stripped from the bill, Brunk said.
The House also passed House Bill 2199, known as the Second Amendment Protection Act, on a 94-29 vote.
Under it, Kansas-made guns and ammo would be immune from federal laws, and state officials could arrest and prosecute federal agents that try to confiscate Kansas-made weapons.
Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, who drafted the act, said he expects the Senate to pass both bills and Gov. Sam Brownback to sign them, perhaps with some changes.