Del. Deb Rey (R-St. Mary’s) has cosponsored a bill introduced this month at the General Assembly that would authorize qualified teachers to carry handguns in Maryland schools.
At least one member of the St. Mary’s County school board, the St. Mary’s teachers union president and Rey’s possible political opponent in the fall were against the bill, which is not likely to become law in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
House Bill 760 was introduced Feb. 1, sponsored by eight Republican delegates.
The bill states “a county board may authorize school employees in the county board’s school system to carry a handgun on school property” if the handgun “is secured on the person’s body.” A teacher or school employee would require a handgun permit issued by the Maryland State Police.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled for March 6 at 1 p.m. in Annapolis.
The issue of guns and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are at the forefront of discussions this month after a high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead.
Rey noted that the bill was introduced almost two weeks before the Florida school shooting, which happened on Valentine’s Day.
Asked if she thought the bill was a viable solution to the issue of school shootings, the delegate said, “I do. It’s a potential solution. It’s not the only solution. A good guy with a gun always stops a bad guy with a gun, unless the bad guy takes his own life.”
There are already armed resource officers on school campuses in St. Mary’s County and elsewhere, Rey said.
Knowing that some school employees are armed could serve as a deterrent to someone planning a mass shooting on campus, she said. Potential shooters would “know that it’s not a gun-free zone,” she said.
The students don’t have to know which teachers are armed and, Rey added, “I’m not proposing that all teachers be armed.”
Ideally, “I never want the teacher to have to use that firearm,” she said.
Under the bill, other school employees besides teachers could carry guns. “It could be an administrator, a janitor. It could be a kitchen worker,” Rey said.
But with Democrats holding the majority in the General Assembly, Rey said she’s not sure if the bill will make it to the governor’s desk for signature.
Rey is hosting a town hall meeting at the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. where she expects the discussion to be about guns.
Brian M. Crosby, a Democrat running for Rey’s seat this year, said he is vehemently opposed to the bill. “It is not a viable option by any stretch of the imagination. Teachers are not pseudo law enforcement,” he said.
A former U.S. Army Ranger and also a supporter of the Second Amendment, Crosby said, “Does this [bill] really represent what St. Mary’s is? That is not even a rational solution.”
Rey “is extremely cost conscious. How much is it going to cost to train every teacher?” Crosby said.
And introducing handguns to the school environment sets up scenarios for accidental shootings or intentional shootings in the heat of the moment, he said. “The biggest cost is liability insurance. That’s going to go up” for school systems, he said.
A better solution would be to fund education budgets to allocate resources to school counselors and psychologists. “Arm teachers with things that they need to get the job done,” he said.
Jill Morris, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, said this week, “In my heart of hearts, I don’t think this [bill] is going to lend itself to any good.”
Rather than arming teachers, “let the teachers teach. Everyone wins,” Morris said, adding that additional counselors, nurses, social workers, and safety and security personnel would be a better solution than letting staff carry guns in school buildings.
Contacted this week, Karin Bailey, chair of the St. Mary’s school board, said she would not discuss the bill and deferred the matter to Cathy Allen, vice chair of the board.
Bailey is seeking a second term this fall and has no opponent yet.
Allen said this week, “I personally would not be in support of this,” bill, she said.
Allen said the training teachers could go through — about 16 hours of training initially and another eight hours of retraining — to be qualified to carry their handgun in a school building is “woefully under the amount of training law enforcement” personnel must take to do their job.
Allen said she questioned if a teacher or other staff member “would be in the right place at the right time” of a potential school shooting incident. She also questioned how a staff member armed with a handgun would fare against someone wielding a semi-automatic weapon, if staff would have their “wits about them” to be able to return fire.
Allen said she speaks from experience as a certified care nurse that there is a difference between being qualified for a task and putting that knowledge into practice.
She said she has faith the St. Mary’s sheriff’s deputies and the Maryland State Police troopers would “do everything in their power as quickly as possible — heaven forbid we [are] to have a shooter in our schools.”
St. Mary’s County Commissioner John O’Connor (R), a detective with the Seat Pleasant Police Department in Prince George’s County, carries a handgun to commissioner meetings in Leonardtown, as his permit allows. In August 2016, the St. Mary’s commissioners changed policy to allow county employees with permits to bring guns to work.
Twitter: @JasonEntNews Twitter: @JacquiEntNews