LINCOLN, Nebraska — Gun rights advocates are arguing that a proposal to let teachers to carry guns in schools would keep classrooms safe, while education groups say it would increase the danger.
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial introduced a bill that would allow Nebraska teachers and other school employees to carry a concealed handgun in schools. School boards would have to approve the permits. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill Friday.
To qualify for a permit, employees would need to take an additional 24 hours of training beyond the eight hours required to legally carry a concealed gun. The training would include best practices for responding to a live shooting.
Nebraska schools vary in size, layout, access to law enforcement and ability to afford law enforcement, Christensen said.
"We are vastly different out there and that's why I think trying to have a single policy for the whole state is not the direction to go in," Christensen said.
Christensen expressed concern about the distance between rural schools and law enforcement. For example, a school in his district is 12 miles from the sheriff's office. The bill also provides an alternative for schools that can't afford to hire law enforcement, he said.
Jay Sears, representing the Nebraska State Education Association, testified against the bill. "What happens if a child gets ahold of a teacher's gun?" he asked. Later, he said, "Is it possible to have a completely secured locked location in a school setting?"
A better approach to curbing school violence would be more school resource officers or tougher security measures, he said.
"Teachers are trained to teach and that's what they're supposed to do and nothing else," he said.
A representative of the Nebraska Association of School Boards and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators also testified against the bill.
The Nebraska Firearms Owners Association offered to subsidize the training for school employees who want these permits.
Rodney Moeller, president of the association, said in a statement the move could save taxpayers thousands.
At the hearing, he said the country has mourned the loss of too many children in school shootings. Now is the time to take steps to prevent such tragedies and stop them if they do happen.
"The sooner we can have well-trained good guys with guns respond to stop the armed bad guys, the more children we will save," he said.
The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would prevent cities and counties from enacting stricter gun regulations than the state.
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion introduced the bill, which would also attempt to prevent the enforcement of federal gun restrictions in Nebraska, with criminal charges for anyone who violates that law.
"The goal of this legislation is to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Nebraskans from overreach of federal and local governments that want to enact local laws that are more restrictive than what we enact in the Legislature," he said.
Committee members had concerns about passing a bill that seeks to nullify federal laws.
"We should not even take seriously anything like this when we know better," said Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. "The federal law is supreme."
The committee took no immediate action on the bills.
The bills are LB879 and LB1030