- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina lawmakers have set aside for now a proposal to allow school employees to carry guns on campus following two weeks of training after education officials and police representatives told them it would be too dangerous.

Angry after what he said was more than an hour of misleading testimony against his bill, Rep. Phillip Lowe left before a House subcommittee voted 4-2 to set aside his bill.

Lowe said he was only trying to protect the safety of children in rural schools that can’t afford a certified police officer and could have to wait for one on patrol to arrive. He started with a story about a gunman entering one of those isolated schools.

“What’s the first thing you think of? Liability? Training? No, you think about what am I going to do,” said Lowe, R-Florence. “What’s the first thing (a gunman would) do? Shoot the teacher and try to assassinate the children.”

Lowe’s bill would have allowed any school employee - teacher, janitor or administrator - who had a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun after completing a two-week training course that included classes on when to shoot and when not to shoot, conflict resolution and communicating with law enforcement officers as long as the local school board agreed.

School protection officers would have to have the gun concealed and in their possession at all times unless locked in a safe, couldn’t have any documented history of violence or anger and would have to use bullets that shatter on impact to reduce ricochets.

Law enforcement representatives were against the bill. “This training is nowhere near adequate,” said South Carolina Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Jarrod Bruder, who added police officers need 12 weeks of training and two additional weeks of classes if they work in schools.

Bruder said police officers dealing with a school shooting currently assume anyone on campus with a gun not with law enforcement is a bad guy because guns are banned and that would no longer be the case if the proposal became law.

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, which trains all police officers in the state, would need more money if even one person in 10 percent of the state’s schools decided to become trained. The state has more than 1,250 schools and only 1,120 yearly training slots, which are nearly all filled with people training to become regular police officers, said Mike Lanier, deputy director of the academy.

Statewide associations representing teachers, administrators and school boards were against the bill, too. They pointed out state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman created a task force of educators, law enforcement and community members to study school safety.

Palmetto State Teachers Association Executive Director Kathy Maness said her group would prefer to see the state put a trained police officer in every school instead of allowing local districts to decide which schools get officers and which don’t.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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