PA SAFE Caucus, Gov. Wolf oppose state Senate bill to arm teachers

HARRISBURG, June 29 The Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would allow school personnel to carry firearms on school grounds and in buildings. Senate Bill 383, sponsored by state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, passed in the Senate by a vote of 28 – 22.


Currently, firearms are not prohibited on school property, with the exception for lawful supervised activity or other lawful purpose. S.B. 383 would grant school boards the authority to enact policies that give approved school employees permission to access and carry firearms while at work. The bill also would exempt those school employees with permission to carry from the state’s Right to Know Law.


Go. Tom Wolf, firearm safety organizations, and members of the PA SAFE Caucus—a coalition of state representatives dedicated to reducing gun violence, formed following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary—have voiced their strong opposition to the bill.


“I strongly oppose this bill and will veto it,” Gov. Wolf said. “Harrisburg can help schools be safer by giving them adequate funding so schools can hire trained security professionals like school resource or police officers, and counselors and support staff for students.”


“Each year in America, nearly 1,300 children die from gun violence and another 5,800 are wounded--literally caught in the crossfire,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery and co-chair of the PA SAFE Caucus. “There are common-sense measures that can be taken to reduce gun violence, like requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases. Arming our teachers, however, is not one of those solutions.”


“The PA SAFE Caucus came together out of a shared desire to address the plague of gun violence in our communities,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny and co-chair of the PA SAFE Caucus. “And as a legislator that was sworn-in amidst the tragic shooting at Columbine High School, protecting our students from gun violence has always been a priority. But the reality is that the answer to preventing shootings, especially in schools, is not more guns.”


“Guns have no place in our schools. I refuse to see classrooms turned into a battlefield. Allowing guns in schools is simply the opposite to the kind of civilized society we want to live in and exemplify to the rest of the country,” said Rep. Stephen Kinsey, D-Phila. “Let’s arrange our priorities and give our schools adequate funding and resources to provide our students the highest level of education.”


"By shielding information regarding who is carrying in schools from Right to Know requests, this bill also denies parents the ability to decide if they are comfortable sending their children into schools and classrooms where their teacher may or may not be carrying a loaded weapon,” said Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila.


"The state budget is due on June 30th. Pennsylvania currently ranks 45 out of 50 in percentage of state funding for public education and our schools are the most inequitable”, said Rep. Leanne Krueger-Brankey, D-Delaware, and Vice Chair of the PA SAFE Caucus. “With all the pressing issues before us right now, I cannot believe the Senate decided this was the time to vote to arm teachers."


PA SAFE has stated that it will work with the governor and advocacy groups to halt the bill from progressing through the House. Should the bill make it to the governor’s desk, however, the bill received 22 negative votes in the Senate, enough to sustain a veto override.


The bill is currently in the House Education Committee.