TOPEKA, Kan. — Legislation designed to strengthen Kansas schools against gunmen passed in the House Wednesday, though some lawmakers argued the bill is more ploy than policy.
The measure would set aside $5 million for schools to upgrade infrastructure to slow or thwart a potential school shooter. The bill passed on a 119-5 vote and heads next to the Senate for consideration.
The bill won Democratic Rep. Jason Probst’s vote, but not his support.
“This is a nice way for the Republican party to try and control a conversation about school safety without having to address the proliferation of firearms,” Probst said.
Funds included in the legislation would allow schools to purchase equipment like security cameras and metal detectors, or to outfit classrooms with thicker doors and blast-resistant glass.
Probst called the $5 million “a pittance,” and nowhere near what would be required to properly secure schools against armed threats.
The measure would also require school districts to work with local law enforcement and state agencies to develop guidelines to prepare, and respond to, mass shootings.
Bill supporter Rep. Eric Smith, a Republican of Burlington, said there is no cost estimate for securing all Kansas schools, and establishing relationships between law enforcement and school districts is the best way to find out.
Following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last month, Kansas legislators have been looking for measures to prevent similar shootings. Proposals have ranged from limiting access to firearms to putting guns in the hands of teachers. The bill passed in the House does not directly address the gun issue.
Included in the legislation is a recommendation that schools add the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle firearm educational video program to their curriculums. While it is not required, many House Democrats voiced opposition to the NRA program specifically being included in the bill, seeing it as an attempt to promote the organization and its values.
Kansas National Education Association lobbyist Mark Desetti expressed concern over the entire bill, arguing that lawmakers should consider gun control and mental health solutions.
“By all means, please do pass this legislation,” he said. “But don’t think this will adequately address the issues of mass murder in our state, our nation, and in our schools.”