Monday, March 11, 2013

Texas Fight To Arm School Employees

On Thursday, March 7, 2013, the Texas State Legislature forwarded H.R. 1896 to committee for research and recommendation. The bill is designed to better allow school districts, municipalities, and counties in Texas the ability to arm educational professionals.

It is scheduled for public hearings on March 14, 2013. If the bill passes both houses with a 2/3 majority, it will go into immediate effect. If it passes by simple majority, it will not go into effect until September 1, 2013, after the 2014 School Year begins.

H.R. 1896 allows for educational professionals such as teachers, counselors, and administrators to carry concealed at public and open-enrollment charter schools. It places the responsibility for determining specific policies and regulations on the local governments.

It also mandates special training beyond that required for a concealed carry permit, to include escalation of force training. That training is not to exceed 20 hours, so it doesn't have a major impact on other responsibilities.

The license to carry in those school zones would be limited to two years at a time and require review of background checks and re-certification training in order to renew. Furthermore, the law keeps the identities of those who have these special permits confidential. However, their place and employment status must be reported to the appropriate authorities in order to insure that those holding the permits are, indeed, employed by the schools where the permit is authorized.

In short, the bill contains important, common-sense safeguards that not only allow the education professionals to be armed, but to make sure those who applicable are responsible, sane, and adequately trained. It is a good law.

Here is an excerpt:

relating to firearm training and the authority of certain employees of a school district or open-enrollment charter school to carry or possess a handgun on certain school premises; authorizing a fee.


         SECTION 1.  Sub-chapter C, Chapter 37, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 37.0811 to read as follows:        


(a) In this section, "premises" has the meaning assigned by Section 46.035, Penal Code.
(b)  The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school may:
               (1)  authorize an employee of the district or charter school who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun under Sub-chapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, to attend a firearm training program established under Section 1701.260, Occupations Code; and

               (2)  adopt written regulations that authorize an employee who has successfully completed the training program described by Subdivision (1) to carry or possess a handgun on the physical premises of a school, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school.

         (c)  Except as provided by Section 1701.260(f), Occupations Code, the identity of an employee who is authorized to attend the training program described by Subsection (b)(1) is confidential and is not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code.
       SECTION 2.  Sub-chapter F, Chapter 1701, Occupations Code, is amended by adding Section 1701.260 to read as follows:

 (a) The commission shall establish and maintain a training program for employees of a school district or open-enrollment charter school who hold a license to carry a concealed handgun issued under Sub-chapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and who are authorized under Section 37.0811, Education Code, to attend the training program.  The training program may be conducted only by the commission staff or by other agencies and institutions the commission approves for that purpose.
       (b)  The training program must: 
             (1)  consist of not more than 20 hours of training; and 
             (2)  include instruction in: 
                   (A)  defensive techniques; and 
                   (B)  safely handling a firearm in a public setting.

With public hearing and committee meetings on the bill scheduled for March 14th, and a 2/3 majority vote needed to put this bill into immediate effect, Texas Citizens may wish to start making phone calls, writing letters and emails to their state-level legislators to voice their support for this bill. Those coming from current and soon-to-be-certified educational professionals may carry more weight than those of concerned citizens without school-aged children.