New bill designed to make it easier for KS teachers to conceal carry at school

Should teachers be allowed to carry guns in school? It's a question many have pondered in the wake of recent school shootings.

Tuesday, the Kansas House plans to hear a new bill designed to make it easier, with increased training, for teachers in the state to carry concealed guns.

The bill is simply called, "The SAFER Act." It lays the groundwork for allowing staff members at Kansas schools to conceal carry while at school. Some officials say the bill in its current form leaves them no choice in the matter. Others think it's an altogether bad idea.

"I've talked to several parents here. Some people feel like we should allow guns in school to protect, others feel we shouldn't - so it's kind of a 50-50 as far as that goes," says Conway Springs Superintendent Clay Murphy.

Murphy says he's been following the issue of conceal carry and school safety closely and like many Kansas schools, his district does not allow teachers to carry guns.

"We don't, just because insurance company would drop us also, so we haven't in the past," Murphy says.

It's this issue with insurance that Kansas lawmakers are looking to address with "The SAFER Act" (House Bill 2789).

"This basically makes it to where insurance companies can't be discriminatory just based on the fact that they're allowing conceal/carry," says Representative Blake Carpenter (R) Wichita who is a co-sponsor of the bill.

He says teachers wishing to conceal carry would have to have an extra layer of proficiency, able to pass a firearm test taken by police officers.

"Basically they're gonna be trained - and they'll have the firearms skills/abilities as far as shooting-wise of that of a police officer. So that's why we're thinking, 'okay this is going to cost them less as far as insurance goes because they're better trained,'" Carpenter says.

Carpenter says The SAFER Act will give districts the freedom to choose their own policies. But some, like Murphy, worry the bill doesn't give much choice at all.

"If a district does not allow them to conceal carry, if the employee wants to, and the district doesn't allow them, then the district could be found negligent," Murphy says.

Andover Public Schools Superintendent Brett White shared a similar concern with the bill. He shared the following statement Monday:

"The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority in USD 385. We are very concerned with the provisions of HB2789, specifically finding a district negligent that does not authorize staff to carry concealed guns. There are also many unknowns about whether insurance companies would provide coverage for districts who would arm staff members. We believe that discussions related to school safety should be very thoughtful and deliberate, and include educators and stakeholders."

Ronny Lieurance, Police Chief for Goddard Schools, says arming teachers isn't the answer.

"I think it's face-value right now a very bad idea," he says. "Because it's a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that has a bigger solution to come. The optimal solution would be to put a police officer in every school in America."

Lieurance agrees that something needs done, but believes there should be more time taken to put a plan together.

With the proper training, Lieurance says he would support arming teachers in rural areas where emergency response times are higher. But he says in places like Wichita and Goddard, arming teachers isn't necessary.

Carpenter says the call for increased training in the bill is in place to make sure students stay safe inside schools.

"Because that's what this is all about, keeping them safe," he says.