HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – Pennsylvania’s Senate is advancing legislation that would set ground rules for school districts that allow employees to possess a gun on school grounds.
The vote on Senate Bill 383 came after an hour long debate on the Senate floor Wednesday night. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Don White (R-Indiana County), gives local school boards the option to have licensed and trained staff carry firearms.
“This bill is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about our kids,” said Sen. White on the floor of the State Senate Wednesday night. “It’s about giving Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts greater choices when it comes to protecting our most precious resource, our children.”
Sen. White said the measure was proposed to him by a math teacher following the 2014 stabbing at the Franklin Regional High School. The state Senate passed the bill by a vote of 28-22.
Sen. Daylin Leach opposed the bill, and read a letter on the Senate floor written by educators who survived the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut saying that having guns wouldn’t have made them or their students safer.
The bill was amended to require the school personnel to pass a psychological exam. The school boards would have to notify local hospitals and students’ families when a staff member is given permission to access a firearm.
There are varying opinions from politicians and parents.
“I think that is an insane idea,” said Lisa Hanners, a mother who visited Pittsburgh Wednesday. “I think what we want teachers and principals to do is teach our children and…to assume that those individuals would have the wherewithal, the capability, the presence of mind to use a firearm in a situation like that, is an outlandish expectation.”
“I’m not sure about that,” added a school nurse, “but there is discussion about the security guards being armed and to me what’s the purpose if they can’t protect us fully?”
“I think there’s a better approach, I think they need to think about it a little more and not rush to a decision,” said Wilshaw Stevens, a Pitt graduate and father. “Teachers have so many other things to think about much less having to secure a weapon in the classroom, and keep it away from the students.”
The bill still needs approval from the state House of Representatives. Gov. Tom Wolf says he opposes it.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)