By Victor Skinner
AUGUSTA, Maine – A bill to allow properly trained school employees to carry firearms to school to protect students from armed intruders died in the Maine Senate after Democrats united against the measure.
LD 1429, sponsored by Republican Sen. David Burns, was voted down by in a party-line vote this week, 19-14. The bill would have allowed schools to decide by referendum and school board approval to arm selected school staff members, who would be required to undergo background checks, psychological screening and special training, the Bangor Daily News reports.
Burns said the bill was intended to allow an armed, trained staff member to “stand in the gap” in the event of an armed intrusion until police could respond. In some schools in Burns’ Senate District 29 in northern Maine, police response times can take over an hour, and a tactical team could take much longer, he said.
“I had no intention of expecting a teacher or a staff member to take the place of a professional police officer, although I have met a lot of those people in that profession that I would have gladly had stand beside me in my law enforcement career,” Burns, a retired state police officer, said during floor debate.
“The only real response to deadly force is deadly force,” Burns said, according to the news site. “Facing an armed killer without a weapon is futile and can only add to the number of lost lives.”
Democrats said schools are currently able to hire school resource officers, and argued that more guns in schools will increase the chances of a gun-related incident. It’s the same argument teachers unions across the country have made against arming school employees to protect students.
Burns countered that many schools can’t afford to hire a police officer, and arming at least one staff member could serve as a needed compromise.
We understand Democrats’ preference for school officers who are “fully trained, not to the minimum standard but to the maximum standard,” as Sen. Stan Gerzofsky put it during debate.
But we see no reason why a school employee with the permit to carry a concealed weapon shouldn’t be able to bring their weapon to work. On top of that, the legislation called for specialized training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
Considering that some schools simply can’t afford to employ a full-fledged police officer, and are too far in the country to count on quick police response times, we have to wonder if lawmakers made the wisest decision.
We only hope a terrible tragedy doesn’t answer that question in an unthinkable manner.