La. Senate panel supports bulletproof backpacks, rejects arming civilians to protect schools

A bill to allow students to carry bulletproof backpacks passed a Senate panel Monday (Source: WAFB)
A bill to allow students to carry bulletproof backpacks passed a Senate panel Monday (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A panel of Louisiana senators said 'no' to a plan that could lead to more guns in the school building.

A bill by Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, would allow for the arming of civilians to provide school security. "Now, we have a gun free zone, and the individuals, what's stopping them?" said Riser during a committee hearing Monday afternoon.

Riser's bill allows retired teachers and parents to enter into agreements with schools. To qualify, they would need to have a concealed carry license and be a veteran, reservist, or current military member. They would rely on their training in those positions to prepare them to handle situations on the school campus.

In the aftermath of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Louisiana lawmakers are weighing options for how to keep kids safe in the classroom. A handful have filed bills. "Do we want to do this? No. I mean, I don't think any of us want to sit here and say our kids are in danger," said Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

Riser's bill faced a roadblock in committee, with lawmakers voting 4 to 3 to involuntarily kill the bill. Lawmakers, teachers, and parents alike worried allowing more guns in schools could cause additional problems. For example, they said it could create confusion for first responders in the event they come across a "good guy" with a gun in a school building.

They also worried it could lead to more injuries or death if kids or school staff get hit by friendly fire.

"When the environment is heightened, when the risk level is heightened, your proficiency drastically decreases," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.

"I have three grandsons in school. I don't want anybody in the school campus with guns other than a police officer in uniform," said Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge.

Another bill did advance through committee to the Senate floor Monday. It would allow students to carry bulletproof backpacks with them in the classroom.

"An AR15, it may make it from a lethal to a non-lethal, but it does at least gives our children some type of protection," said Walsworth, the legislation's sponsor.

There are also several bills drafted this session allowing teachers to conceal carry in the classroom. Those have so far not come up for a hearing. The governor has already expressed his opposition to arming teachers.

Copyright 2018 WAFB. All rights reserved.