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Politics & Government

Proposal Would Let Teachers in PA Carry Guns on the Job

School shootings across the country have prompted studies on school safety in Pennsylvania, calls to boost security budgets and, now, legislation to allow school staff to carry firearms is on the table.

A year ago, top lawmakers and the Corbett administration said they didn't want to talk about arming teachers in a bid to deter gun violence in schools, but that's exactly the debate state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) wants to have.

White's proposal would let school boards decide whether their school employees can carry firearms. He said the idea came from teachers in his district.

"And their reasoning to me was, 'Look, who knows the students better than we do, who knows the school building and the infrastructure better than we do? We think we should have other options of defending ourselves and our students and fellow faculty than hiding in a closet or locking a door or jumping in front of bullets,'" White said.

He said allowing school faculty to carry firearms might allay the concerns of parents who send their kids to rural schools, where the closest police presence might be too far away to deter a violent intruder.

Recent reports have made suggestions in the opposite direction. Law enforcement and other groups recently testified before a House panel discouraging anyone but the security staff from carrying guns in schools.

The Pennsylvania State Police recommended in a report this month recommended that all schools have some kind of security force, and suggested having armed security officer is an effective way to deal with a violent intruder.

"I realize this is going to be controversial," White said, adding that he has his own concerns about lettings school employees become de facto security guards.

"I don't want some John Wayne type to, all of a sudden, jump out and want to be one of these people," White said. "But I think there's a way to qualify these people and there's a way to train these people. And some of them currently are already licensed to carry firearms."