A bill presented by Georgia State Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville) that would allow school districts to arm employees passed the Georgia House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee by a 9-2 vote Tuesday.
House Bill 35 would give local school boards the authority to designate any number of employees to carry concealed weapons. The bill would provide training criteria but leaves decision-making to the local school boards. Those appointed to carry firearms would have to obtain a weapons carry permit as well as undergo a background check. School systems would pay for expenses associated with required training.
The bill was approved after the committee ironed out issues related to liability coverage, defined background checks for criminal and mental health history, and clarified that an employee cannot be penalized for turning down the position. The bill would allow those selected to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, at school functions and even on buses.
“It could be the maintenance man, it could be the teacher, it could basically be anyone there once they’ve met a certain level of proficiency,” said Committee Chairman Alan Powell, R-Hartwell.
Battles said the bill is also a cost-saving measure since many school districts cannot afford to hire police officers. He went on to say that his preference would be to place trained law enforcement officers in every school but “We just can’t. We don’t have the resources right now.”
HB 35 will now move to the Rules Committee for consideration.