Louisiana lawmakers say 'no' to arming teachers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As the nation comes to grips with how to keep schools safe, Louisiana legislators said Wednesday that arming teachers is not the answer.

HB 271 by Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, would have allowed teachers to have weapons with them in the classroom, provided they meet certain requirements. That bill died in House committee, with Republicans and an Independent joining with Democrats to block the legislation. Seven lawmakers voted in support, while nine voted against.

Garofalo argued in committee that because schools are gun-free zones, they are easy targets. "The facts are that right now, we have sheep ready for the slaughter, that's the fact," he said. "This bill is designed to say, you might run into armed resistance. I'm not requiring teachers to do anything."

In order to have a gun, teachers would need a concealed carry permit and would have to undergo police-like training. The school board would also need to give the teacher the go ahead to have a weapon on campus.

The committee hearing came just weeks after 17 died after a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a Florida high school. At least one former teacher argued the bill was a good idea, giving them a way to intervene until police arrive. "Unfortunately right now, it's lock the door and hope. That's it. Lock door and hope," the former teacher said.

But the idea faced push back. Some teachers argued having a gun created a dangerous situation, with the potential for possibly deadly mistakes. Jason Naquin, a PE teacher from Ascension Parish, said if teachers had guns, it would also change how kids view and interact with teachers. "It's just not the way it's supposed to be. The job is for police officers," he said. "This is the Dollar Tree version of school safety."

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Some lawmakers worried teachers were already stretched too thin and did not need this extra weight on their shoulders. "We want teachers to be policemen now too? We don't pay them enough to teach," said Rep. John Bagneris, D-New Orleans.

The governor previously expressed concerns about arming teachers, saying he did not believe it was a good idea.

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