- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Republican lawmaker asked fellow legislators Tuesday to imagine the unthinkable: a shooting at a rural school where help was miles and many minutes away.

Rep. Dwight Kiefert of Valley City told the House Education Committee that students immediately would be calling their parents who would be racing to the school with their own weapons to save their children.

“Parents would be going over 100 mph on gravel roads with their deer rifles trying to save their kids,” Kiefert said. “Who could blame them?”

Kiefert is the primary sponsor of a pair of bills aimed at arming people at schools. One measure would allow teachers and other school workers with concealed-carry permits to pack guns at schools, if officials allow it and they are trained by law enforcement. The second measure would provide more than $1 million from the state treasury to provide about 15 small rural districts with grants to place armed law officers in schools.

Education officials opposed arming teachers and other workers at schools but supported providing funds for armed officers.

Kiefert said having armed law officers in schools is the “best answer to the problem … but it all gets down to funding.” He estimated it would cost $75 million annually to place an armed law officer in every school in North Dakota.

Arming teachers and other school personnel is “a backup for these officers,” he said.

The committee took no action on the legislation Tuesday. The measures will be debated by the full House later.

A similar measure that would allow teachers and other school officials to carry guns at school failed two years ago in the Legislature. Education officials said then and again on Tuesday that putting firearms in the hands of teachers and others not adequately trained to respond to shooting incidents could lead to accidental shootings and could make schools even more dangerous.

They said it also could lead to potential lawsuits and increased insurance costs.

Jon Martinson, director of the state School Boards Association, told the committee that the proposal to allow those who are not law enforcement officers to have guns in school is still a “really poor idea.”

“We fought this last session,” Martinson said. “Somebody still thinks this is a good idea?”

Gail Schauer, an assistant director at the state Department of Public Instruction, said North Dakota has 19 so-called school resource officers who are employed at mostly larger school districts in the state. The positions are paid for by the school districts as well as the cities and counties where they are located.


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