State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Senate committee advances bill to allow guns in schools

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 20, 2017 5:43 AM
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The controversial bill would let school employees carry firearms at work, provided they're properly credentialed. Its stated purpose is to protect students, though opponents fear it would do the opposite. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) - The Senate Education Committee has advanced a bill that would give schools in Pennsylvania the option of allowing teachers and other staff to carry concealed guns.

Supporters say it's a matter of letting schools make the safety decisions that fit them best, while opponents call it irresponsible and unnecessary.

The proposal heads to the full House after a failed motion to table it for more hearings.

GOP Education Committee chair John Eichelberger, of Blair County, argued that stalling it would be a waste of time, as the same language had a hearing three years ago.

The primary sponsor, Republican Senator Donald White of Armstrong County, said the bill would be most useful in rural school districts where a police response to a violent incident may take valuable time.

He noted that it's what the legislature refers to as a "may" bill--meaning it's voluntary.

"School boards are elected. And this is just one more tool to help them--if they see fit--to protect their families," he said.

Teachers' organizations and gun control groups broadly oppose the bill.

Shira Goodman with CeaseFirePA said weapons should be left to police and official security.

"We have provisions to have guards, and school resource officers and things like that whose job is the safety of the school," she said. "Our teachers' jobs are to educate our children."

A spokesperson for Governor Tom Wolf said the administration strongly opposes the plan and would veto it.

He added, "Harrisburg can help schools be safer by giving them adequate funding so schools can hire trained security professionals," and noted Wolf supports increasing funding for the Education Department's Safe Schools Initiative.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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