In an effort to increase security in Maine schools, State Senator David Burns (R-Washington County) proposed a bill earlier this week that would enable teachers and school employees to carry concealed weapons on the job. The Portland Press Herald announced that Burns submitted the bill on Wednesday.
“This is not a mandate for anybody,” Burns told the Press Herald. “This is an option for school systems to consider as they look at the overall responsibility and problems of protecting children and staff in school environments.”
Burns, a first-term senator who was previously a state trooper for 24 years, also proposed that school districts have the opportunity to hire armed security guards. Under the proposed bill, all school officials could carry a firearm under the conditions that they first obtain a state permit, enlist in a firearms training course, and pass a psychological exam. The full text of the bill will be released next week, according to Amy Cookson, a representative from the office of Brunswick State Senator Stan Gerzofsky.
“There are likely to be several bills about arming teachers/school personnel,” Cookson added. As Chair the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee, Senator Gerzofsky, a Democrat, will likely review many of the proposed bills.
Under Burns’ bill, schools would individually have the option to opt in or out, and each local superintendent, principal, and school board would need to approve the action. Students’ parents would be notified when a school employee registers to conceal a firearm, although the individual identity would be kept secret.
“My bill would have the option of either putting together a training curriculum through the [Maine] Criminal Justice Academy or it would be put together by private vendors trained in firearms,” Burns told ABC News.
In the six weeks since the December 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., there have been five additional school shootings in the U.S.
State Representative Peter Kent, a Democrat who represents a portion of Brunswick, is against the new bill, and said he will not be voting for it.
“I don’t think guns belong in schools,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Maine law permits colleges and universities to decide whether to allow firearms on their property, and Bowdoin allows its students and faculty to have firearms under the condition that they are stored with the Office of Safety and Security.
Thomas Lilly ’14 stores two shotguns with Security, goes shooting a few times a semester in Falmouth, and buys ammunition at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Maine state law allows individuals over the age of 18 to purchase firearms and ammunition without a license.
Lilly decided to transport his guns to school, “because I found out that Bowdoin had a policy where I actually could bring them,” he said. “That led me to investigate what I could do in the area.”
Lilly said he did not feel the need to bring his guns to college and would not have been upset had he not been allowed to bring them. When he returns to campus after a break, he knows to bring his guns straight to Security.
“You’re not allowed to have [guns] on campus at all, so when I come back from home I go right to Security and drop them off,” he said.
Educators have expressed opposition to the bill already, and have brought up the possibility that teachers could get distracted and a student could grab the weapon, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Jamie Caron, the Portland School Board chairman, and Mike Sauschuck, the Portland police chief, are both against the new bill. Caron prefers the idea of expanding school intercom systems—which can be used to signal a lockdown—while Sauschuck objects to the bill because he believes that teachers will not receive adequate gun safety training, according to the Press Herald.
-Kate Witteman contributed to this report.