Gun-free zone or gun prepared? A choice for hardening campus safety in SB 173

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Mural at Chief Paul Memorial School

Guns on school campuses is always a hot topic across the country, but Sen Shelley Hughes of Palmer, Alaska has never shied away from hot topics during her years in the Alaska Legislature. A bill that would allow some school professionals to carry concealed weapons on school grounds was introduced by Hughes this session.

Senate Bill 173 would require school districts to grant qualified persons an assigned duty to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds under certain conditions.

Last year, there were 346 shooting incidents in schools in the United States, and 248 victims wounded or killed, according to a presentation from Hughes’ office. Over the past five years, 1073 victims were wounded or killed on school grounds, according to U.S. News and World Report.

One supporter of the plan, an Anchorage teacher, told the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee that she had qualms about one aspect: The requirement that the persons assigned to carry firearms meet police physical fitness standards is too much, she said. Many teachers are in their fifties and sixties and would not be able to meet those standards, but would otherwise be qualified to carry.

The bill also requires the eligible gun-toting teacher to complete a recognized firearms training course.

Alaska’s worst school shooting was in Bethel in 1997, when a student pulled a gun out at the high school and killed a student and the principal. Not coincidentally, SB 173 was suggested by a retired teacher who was at the school when the shooting occurred.

“If we do nothing, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Hughes said. “This is a critical conversation, and it is time for critical decision-making. If we want to prevent the deaths of school children in Alaska, we need to act. If we wait to address this matter until after precious children have died, what a dreadful shame and inexcusable mistake that will be.”

Superintendents and school boards in Alaska can set policy to allow concealed carry, but no schools allow it, according to Hughes. The bill sets clear guidelines for training, qualifications, and hiring personnel for concealed carry on school grounds “to trusted, stable, respected, and well-trained individuals,” she said.

Sen. Rob Myers of Fairbanks and Sen. Mike Shower of Wasilla are cosponsors of the bill, which is being held in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by freshman Sen. Jesse Bjorkman of North Kenai, who is a public school teacher.

Sen. Hughes addressed the topic on Facebook on Jan. 22:

Schools are now considered gun-free zones, which makes all who are in those zones into easy targets. Hughes believes preparedness in Alaska is of critical importance given the size of the state and the harsh weather conditions that could arise, which could delay response times. Every minute of response time to an active shooter in a school building is a matter of life or death, she said.

“Due to distance, when law enforcement response in Alaska can take from a few minutes to a few hours, or with inclement weather in remote communities, even longer … We need well-trained individuals on-site who can respond immediately,” Hughes said. “The Safe Schools Act is a necessary step toward protecting this and future generations from reckless harm so our young Alaskans can focus on learning and make a positive difference in our communities.”

The bill particulars can be found at this link.

39 COMMENTS

  1. This is one smart solution to a complex issue. Teachers SHOULD NOT lose constitutionally protected rights because they enter a school. I would prefer to see each school having a dedicated response team too.
    In a perfect world, these discussions would not be needed!!! But Anchorage and Alaska is a long way from perfect!!!!

    Couple this with this week’s discussion of the stabbing at the public library and lack of mental health solutions and this is a prudent step to protecting our most valuable resource, young people.

  2. So long as the carriers are licensed and can prove they have passed a gun safety course,

    Do it. Arm anyone willing and able.

    • TMA, I understand the sentiment of your statement, but in Alaska you are not required to be licensed in order to carry concealed, nor are you required to demonstrate proficiency in order to carry in any condition open or concealed. This is known as Constitutional Carry. The 2A does not say that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall be predicated upon their licensure or demonstrated ability to do so, lest we mandate more conditions or hoop jumping requirements in order to self-defend or to defend others. In the article, one supported stated, “The requirement that the persons assigned to carry firearms meet police physical fitness standards is too much, she said. Many teachers are in their fifties and sixties and would not be able to meet those standards, but would otherwise be qualified to carry.” She is absolutely correct, there should be no additional physical requirement to meet law enforcement standards. A teacher is not enforcing the law, not chasing suspects, therefore, no need to meet grueling physical standards. However, because not everyone is a naturally superior marksman, the reasonable requirement that these teachers undergo a course of training in light of the precious treasure they are endowed to protect should be a mandate. There will be rules of engagement regarding where, when and how teacher/defender will be allowed to engage a threat; it is inevitable. There will be an emphasis on currency training, student briefings, parental input, weapons type to include caliber and retention/security of weapon. It is a lot to ask of a teacher and I agree that the Unions are going to have a hay-day with additional mandates that will render the concept ineffective, while districts will deal with endless risk analysis. A similar law was just passed in Iowa, and it will be telling to see how it is implemented while we in Alaska stand to gain insight from that effort. You said it yourself, “Arm anyone willing and able.” I’ll add anyone willing to undergo a rigorous course of training and able to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in drawing from a concealed condition and put rounds in the threat.

  3. Yeah, teachers should be allowed to carry. But the big issue that is not mentioned here are the costs after the teacher pulls the trigger. Likely a teacher will have to defend his/her/it’s self in court for their actions, whether legit or not. That could be the financial ruin of a teacher. So less will carry knowing this.

    • Better judged by 12 than carried by 6 I think the expression goes. But yeah, law suit territory. Maybe guarantee representation by the State AG (criminally or civilly) as long as shootings are in good faith on their face and acts which are done as a Good Samaritan in a final effort to prevent loss of life. However you would word that legally?

    • Since it would be considered an “official assigned duty”, it would fall under the school districts liability. The law could further stipulate that any perpetrator or relatives thereof can not profit from his/her crime and sue for damages.

    • I agree Josh. But it is the same with anyone who carries, and anyone who does should be educated and accept the potential liability of a lethal force encounter. I carry a $2,000,000 policy with the USCCA and Delta Defense for just such an occasion, and that is no guarantee in this litigious climate.

  4. Allow the teachers to carry AR-15s strapped to their chests for immediate use if necessary. Put more meat into this bill. And bring back corporal punishment too. Just like in the 50’s and 60’s when kids learned respect through fear. It actually works!

    • What an absolutely silly idea, having an AR-15 strapped to your chest at all times. I am all for school personnel carrying CONCEALED, but this isn’t a prison with armed guards, it is a school.

      It further is impractical as teachers (especially in elementary school) need the ability to move quickly, sit on the floor and have the freedom of movement, or try the school secretary sitting at her desk, the lunch lady carrying hot pots and pans, the custodian crawling around a toilet to unclog or clean…ridiculous!

  5. The level of shooting qualifications police must demonstrate relates to marksmanship, not other physical abilities. If a school employee can successfully complete training and demonstrate proficiency with the state troopers shooting qualification test, let them carry. Our kids deserve to be protected.

    • Most police officers aren’t even very accurate with their service firearms. Just look at the many incidents where they dump their entire magazine on a suspect and no rounds impact the suspect.

      • Uhh, no. You’re watching too much Netflix. Real life is much messier.

        They are trained to put multiple rounds into center mass if necessary. Plus when police must use deadly force, the decision time is less than 2 seconds in most cases.

        And don’t forget the suspect tends to resist. Makes it hard to assume firing range stance and methodically squeeze off rounds while under attack.

        Another consideration you seem to have omitted is the need to save lives. Theirs, any victims, bystanders, trivial things.

    • I agree with your assessment regarding physical versus marksmanship with one caveat; The AST qualification emphasizes drawing from an open carry condition. It is my assumption that districts will require that weapons be concealed on the defender on school grounds, thus, train the way you work. I would recommend that the FBI Qual course be the training standard. As mentioned, the AST Qual is from the open condition and employs 48 rounds, allowing only 38 on target to pass basic qualification. The FBI Qual is performed from the concealed condition and employs 60 rounds, allowing 48 on target for basic qualification. That’s 2 additional rounds dropped with 12 additional engagements.

  6. “An Act requiring school districts to grant qualified persons an assigned duty to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds “
    Doesn’t have to be a teacher.

    • Good point. That means that there is a potential for roving patrols to include janitors, and other qualified “volunteers.”

  7. “Gun free zones” are soft targets and the mentally deranged school shooters know that. Arm teachers willing to carry. I don’t see anything wrong with this.

    Remember the church goer that stopped that shooter with one shot?

    The anti’s never mention the millions of times a firearm has been used to stop shootings. It doesn’t fit their narrative.

  8. A number of school districts in the Lower 48 have instituted campus carry and to date not a single shooting has occurred at a school with armed staff. But that will be lost on the anti-gun nuts who will vehemently oppose this bill.

  9. When I went to public school here in Alaska a school teacher taught a NRA gun safety class to the students in Junior High
    It was a very popular class

    ‘https://training.usconcealedcarry.com/instructor/a2c38cb2-dd47-11e8-ad56-0242c0a80010

    • I would hope that the “qualified person” would be allowed to purchase and maintain their own weapon, equip it so that it functions and performs well in their hands rather than the operator having to adapt to a mandated weapon. That being said, when an agency issues a weapon, they typically assume the responsibility for its maintenance and operation, how it is carried, what ammunition is used, and what modifications it will have, because they own it and have the right of determination. It is sad to admit, but a vast number of owner/operators fail at maintaining their weapons, or even clean them after training at the range. This is where unions typically get involved, provided the “qualified person” is represented.

  10. 100% Yes. As a long-time hunter education instructor I believe there’s nothing more important to deterring a school shooting incident than knowing there are or may be firearms in the school. These shooters are scared, they’re chicken-shit pissed-off kids. They will absolutely hesitate to act on their emotions if they know any adult in the building may potentially shoot back. I’m not sure I support the law enforcement officer fitness requirements, but I do believe annual qualifications should be required. Practice with your firearm is absolutely critical if you’re given this opportunity to protect your school.

  11. “Last year, there were 346 shooting incidents in schools in the United States, and 248 victims wounded or killed, according to a presentation from Hughes’ office.”
    .
    I would like to see that presentation.
    Last time I saw a number like that (school shootings) it included things like a suicide in the school parking lot. At night. On a Saturday. During summer recess. And, it also included a gang fight where the victim fled onto school property.
    .
    Now, I know Sen. Hughes is pushing to allow qualified people to carry on school grounds. I fully support that, and history shows it will reduce the likelihood of an active shooter situation in schools. But, when numbers like 346 school shootings are used, it also give the gun control advocates and the uneducated (sorry to repeat myself) data to push for gun control.
    .
    I now have a to-do added to my list for the day.

    • A shooting by definition is suppose to be a reflection of an act of violence toward ones self or others. But as you have gleaned, a poll can be manipulated to say anything. These numbers could also reflect accidental discharges in a teacher’s car in the parking lot, kids shooting out lights at a school after hours, or any other time a loud bang is heard on school ground to feed the narrative. As you also said, gun grabbers will tend to inflate the numbers to prove their point for dramatic effect. I tend to agree that Hughes is just employing one of the grabber own tactics to add fuel to this fire, but hypocritically I approve, if it succeeds to arm responsible persons and decreases deadly force school shootings.

    • A shooting by definition is suppose to be a reflection of an act of violence toward ones self or others. But as you have gleaned, a poll can be manipulated to say anything. These numbers could also reflect accidental discharges in a teacher’s car in the parking lot, kids shooting out lights at a school after hours, or any other time a loud bang is heard on school grounds to feed the narrative. As you also said, gun grabbers will tend to inflate the numbers to prove their point for dramatic effect. I tend to agree that Hughes is just employing one of the grabber own tactics to add fuel to this fire, but hypocritically I approve, if it succeeds to arm responsible persons and decreases deadly force school shootings.

  12. The amount of hysterical pearl-clutching that this bill will engender among the radical leftists and the champagne communists will make it worth pursuing all by itself.

    I am in fact surprised that the ‘usual suspects’ among that group here on MRAK have not already added their kneejerk, anti-freedom, and emotive diatribes to the discussion.

  13. The idea is a good one. It doesn’t have to be teachers. I started and ran an armed school and church security program here in Anchorage for over ten years and it is still up and going 15 years later. The families feel secure, the students feel secure and usually the person that has bad intentions toward the school knows that the program exists. Most of the offenders are cowards and don’t want to be immediately confronted.

  14. I’m also pro Death penalty. I’m
    Tired of feeding and housing criminals when we could be spending that money to help young people become good citizens. And yes a person hanging by the neck in front of the court house is definitely a deterrent. In fact they should bring the high school students up to watch.

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