BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The deadly school shooting in Florida is inspiring new action at the state capitol in Louisiana. Several lawmakers are drafting bills they say will help improve school safety.
"Our most precious resource - we've got to look after it," said Rep. Rodgers Pope, R-Denham Springs.
Pope is one of a handful of lawmakers sponsoring legislation giving teachers and school employees the ability to carry concealed handguns in the classroom.
Pope says it creates another line of defense, especially when school resource officers are stretched thin. "My intent here is not to arm every teacher in school, if they don't want to be, we don't want to force them to be," Pope said.
Under his proposal, each school board gets to decide whether employees should be allowed to carry. Teachers would need to have a concealed carry permit and undergo eight hours of tactical training each year.
The bill is already facing pushback, with some saying it will make matters worse. "I don't think the solution to preventing gun violence is to add more guns to the situation," said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.
Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel said in a statement that he is "not for guns on campus except in the hands of trained school resource officers, deputies and police officers."
In East Baton Rouge, School Board President David Tatman said he is open to exploring the idea but thinks the training requirements need to be stepped up. "I think it's got to be a specific type of training, that how do you handle that situation on campus," he said.
Tatman said he did not know whether the school board would support arming any teachers in the EBR system.
So far the governor has shied away from taking a position on the bill, saying in his speech opening the session that the priority needs to be on "safety for our children."
Whether the bill will gain any traction this session remains to be seen. It so far has not been scheduled for a hearing before the House Committee on Criminal Justice.
"Is this the right way? I don't know if this is the right way or not. But at least I hope it provokes some discussion," Pope said.