Legislators mull gun law
It’s time to talk about gun safety.
That was the reaction of the majority of Chugiak-Eagle River’s state legislators to a recent proposal that would allow teachers and other permanent employees to carry concealed guns at school.
“We need to have a conversation about safety in our schools,” said Sen. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River/East Anchorage, of Rep. Bob Lynn’s House Bill 55, which was released four days prior to the start of the 28th Legislature’s first session Tuesday, Jan. 15.
The proposal would allow “school districts and private schools to adopt a policy authorizing one or more permanent employees to possess one or more firearms on school grounds under certain conditions.”
The “governing body of a school district” could authorize permanent employees to carry a concealed gun “for defensive use” if they have completed training and have a permit, the bill reads.
Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, recommended having Alaska State Troopers and/or police officers conduct the required training.
No such training or a permit is required under the current law, which grants chief administrative officers the power to allow adults without a felony record to bring firearms into schools.
Dyson was the lone local legislator to fully endorse the bill.
“I like it. I will be supporting it for sure,” he said.
If passed, Dyson said the bill would be a deterrent to criminals.
“Bad guys who are sane are always a little less interested in attacking someone who is capable of protecting themselves,” he said, adding that anyone who discharges a firearm inside a school likely isn’t a rational person.
Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, echoed Dyson’s words, saying gun-free zones are more susceptible to mass murders.
Lynn’s proposal came less than a month after 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Lynn said his proposal was a “freedom of choice bill.”
“I think it’s a local issue,” he told the AP.
Saddler agreed, saying the proposal respects local schools.
Though he couldn’t say whether he’d vote yes or no until he sees a final version, Saddler said the bill’s introduction will lead to a much-needed broader conversation about the issue.
A day before being sworn in, freshman Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, said settling into her new office took longer than anticipated and she didn’t have a chance to read Lynn’s proposal.
“I can’t comment on his bill at this time,” she said.
Students’ safety is paramount, Reinbold said.
“I do feel our children need to be protected in school,” she said. “Whether the resource officer is the right person, I don’t know. It deserves to be looked at.”
Calls to Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, seeking comment were not returned.
A former PTA president, Fairclough said she wanted to speak with teachers and students to see if they thought guns in the classroom would make the school safer.
“There is more and more violence in our nation and our schools are a target,” she said. “I understand wanting to make sure teachers and students are protected.”