BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new bill already on the docket for this year's legislative session could put students behind bars for bringing a fake gun to school.
Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said she is bringing HB 43 to the table in hopes of dissuading students from putting the imitation weapons in their backpacks.
Under the bill, first time offenders could face a $250 fine and up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders would face a $500 fine and up to six months behind bars.
"My whole intention is to protect a student from being shot because of a stupid action he or she may make, and to protect our deputies from having to shoot a student and live with that their entire life," Horton said.
There are several instances in recent memory of students bringing real guns into the classroom. In early February, for example, a student allegedly brought a gun to Scotlandville High School and opened fire. No one was hurt. Even so, Horton worries that fake weapons could also create the potential for a deadly situation. She cites a recent event in north Louisiana.
"Last year, we had a student pull a fake gun on one of our deputies. Until the deputy it picked up, he thought it was real," Horton said.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said he sees some value in the legislation, but said its enforcement would vary from case to case. "It just depends on the circumstances and what came before they brought it to school happened before the gun was brought in," Moore said.
However, not all are on board, including the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT). They argue the bill may have unintended consequences. "You could have an elementary school child, as the bill reads, put in jail," said Cynthia Posey, the legislative director for LFT.
As it stands, the bill applies to everything from elementary school campuses to colleges and universities. Horton said it was not her intention to put elementary school children behind bars and said she is open to changing the wording of her bill.
"I'm thankful for the dialogue. I want everyone's concerned to be answered and addressed," Horton said.
Lawmakers returned to the capitol on Monday, April 10.