CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming lawmakers are considering legislation to allow school employees to carry concealed guns on campus, if their local school district approves the move.
The state House Education Committee approved House Bill 194 on an 8-1 vote Wednesday, sending the legislation to the full House for consideration. The bill would allow individual school districts to decide whether or not to allow employees with a concealed carry permit to bring guns to school, and it does not currently include training requirements, the Casper Star Tribune reports.
HB 194, sponsored by Rep. John Eklund, would require districts to create an application process and tasks school boards with maintaining a list of employees authorized to carry guns at school. The House Education Committee amended the legislation to exempt that list from public records requests to prevent potential school attackers from learning who is packing heat at school, WyoFile reports.
The bill would also require guns to be kept on the employee, in a locked box, or in a “sealed biometric container” within the person’s control.
The legislation follows comments made by Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos about guns in schools during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week.
Referencing a school in Wapiti, Wyoming that erected a fence to protect students from grizzlies and other wildlife, DeVos defended local control over decisions about arming school staff.
“I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said, prompting ridicule from leftists online.
It is currently illegal to possess a firearm at public K-12 schools in Wyoming, and Eklund’s legislation aims to change that. Many folks who testified in favor of HB 194 on Wednesday also cited the need for local control over gun decisions, especially for schools in remote areas of the state.
“Guns in schools over the last couple of weeks have landed as the punchline in a couple of jokes,” Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow told the committee. “I don’t think it’s OK to be making the jokes we have as a state or as a nation about guns in schools.”
Balow said she’s lived in areas with schools without school resource officers where “the closest law enforcement officer was a minimum of 32 miles away” and supports giving schools the authority to arm staff.
Laramie County School District 2 board member Taft Love echoed Balow’s reference to protecting schools the long response times for law enforcement, and said six of the district’s nine board members support the bill.
“We have elementary schools that are a long way from any officer,” she said, according to the Tribune.
The Wyoming School Boards Association’s executive director, Brian Farmer, also testified in favor of the bill, emphasizing that each district would decide whether or not armed staff makes sense.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this bill,” he said.
Democrats, as well as the state teachers union – the Wyoming Education Association, opposed the legislation.
“We appreciate the local control, that this isn’t a blanket bill that says anyone and everyone, but we’d really appreciate it if guns were not in schools,” WEA president Kathy Vetter said.
Rep. Debbie Bovee, a Democrat and retired teacher from Casper, was the only committee member to vote against the bill. She cited concerns about students gaining access to guns at school, and cited a female teacher in Wyoming who was attacked and overpowered by a fourth grade student.
“If she’d been carrying a gun, he would’ve used it,” she said.
Eklund said the bill is designed to give local school boards flexibility to determine whether employees should be armed, as well as any training or other requirements for those approved to carry guns to school.
“I am trusting the school boards around the state to find the right training,” he said.