The bill would allow local school boards to authorize gun carrying by designated employees on all school property – “anywhere within a school safety zone or school building, at a school function, on any property owned, controlled or managed by the school, and on a school bus or other transportation furnished by the school.”
HB 35 would mandate a school board policy providing for “sufficient training” of an employee before he/she could carry firearms on school property. There is no definition of “sufficient training,” but the bill says at a minimum this must “include training on judgment pistol shooting, marksmanship and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for the defense of self and others.” The board policy could substitute prior military or law enforcement service for the training.
This prompted Mark Kissel, school police chief of Cherokee County, to conclude: “School districts are left to surmise training and proficiency standards.” Kissel is president of the Georgia Association of Secondary Law Enforcement Executives with 32 members representing 26 of the state’s 181 school districts.
Most of the districts represented by the association oppose HB 35, Kissel told the Cherokee Tribune.
The bill’s requirements for a school employee to be armed include a weapons carry license and a yearly criminal background check. Employees would have to be selected on a strictly voluntary basis, and the school board would be responsible for any costs involved – but the employee could pay part or all costs or receive “donations or grants from private persons or entities.”
The school board would have to approve a list of types of firearms and ammunition and the number of firearms and amount of ammunition authorized. A “mandatory method of securing” employee firearms would be required, including at a minimum “that the firearm, if permitted to be carried concealed….shall be carried in a holster on the person and not in a purse, briefcase, bag, or similar other accessory which is not secured on the body of the person, and if maintained separate from the person, shall be maintained in a secured lock safe or similar lock box that cannot be easily accessed by students.”
Translation: the employee would have to strap on a concealed holster and carry the gun or stash it in a safe or lock box, raising questions about where the gun would be locked up in relation to its user, how long it would take to unlock the safe or lock box and whether by that time it would be too late to use the weapon.
Another major issue is that of liability. If a school employee shot someone, what would the legal implications be and would there be liability insurance to cover the employee? As Chief Kissel said: “When you arm, you’ve got liability.”
It seems that HB 35 misses the mark in protecting Georgia’s school children.
Don McKee is a columnist for the Marietta Daily Journal and Cherokee Tribune.