Oklahoma Senate approves bill to allow more armed teachers

OKLAHOMA CITY — (AP) — School teachers in Oklahoma with a gun license would be able to carry firearms into their classrooms with district approval under a bill approved in the state Senate.

The bill, approved on a 37-7 vote mostly along party lines, passed after it was amended to beef up the training requirements, requiring teachers to participate in active-shooter training with local law enforcement. The proposed new law is optional and would require a local school board approval first.

“We have a lot of kids right now who are vulnerable,” said Sen. David Bullard, a Durant Republican whose rural district includes several small districts he says can’t afford to hire a police officer. “If someone brings a gun to school, they don’t have any way to protect these kids.”

But Democrats raised several concerns, including the dramatic reduction in the number of hours of training that would be required for teachers to take. Under current state law, school districts can allow teachers to carry if they have an armed security guard license, which requires 72 hours of training.

Opponents said they also were concerned about a school district’s liability if someone at the school was killed with a teacher’s weapon.

Oklahoma is already one of at least nine states — along with Idaho, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming — that allow districts to authorize teachers to carry firearms on K-12 school grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

About a dozen volunteers with the advocacy group Moms Demand Action urged senators to oppose the bill and watched from the gallery as it passed.

“We don’t think having more guns in schools is a good idea, and to reduce the required amount of training for teachers is even worse,” said Jennifer Birch, a volunteer leader from Oklahoma City.

Because the bill was amended, it returns to the House, which overwhelmingly approved a similar measure last year.