Bill proposes armed marshals at school

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A soon-to-be seated member of Texas House said he plans to file a bill this week to allow “covert” armed marshals at Texas schools.

The proposed bill, called the Protection of Children Act,  would give districts this option.

Any staff member – teacher, coach, janitor – could volunteer, but Villalba said they would need a concealed handgun license and weeks of intense training with law enforcement.

“They would only be allowed to use lethal force in a direct, active threat – an active shooter – to children,” said Dallas Republican Jason Villalba, who was elected last month.

Villalba, who will take office when the Legislature convenes in January, explained that only principals, other district administrators and police would know the identity of such individuals – likely one for every 400 students. However – much like an air marshal on a plane – the campus would have signage designating it as a “marshal-protected school.”

“This would essentially be deputizing a school worker, providing a last line of defense” he said, adding that he has crafted the bill with input from local police. “This is not a bill about guns. It’s a bill about protection.”

Villalba, who has a 6-year-old daughter in kindergarten and another daughter entering pre-K next fall, said he had been working on the legislation for months, but last week’s school shooting Connecticut sped up the process.

“I was impacted greatly by what happened,” he continued. “I have such great empathy for parents who lost those beautiful children.”

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said he has considered how such a bill might work. Patterson is well-versed in the state’s gun laws. As a state senator In the 1990s, he spearheaded the legislation allowing law-abiding Texas to carry concealed handguns.

"You hear some people saying, 'Every teacher should be armed,’” said Patterson. “I'm sorry. That's not a good idea. What we need is a competent person armed. That could be a police officer. It could be a security guard. It could be a principal or assistant principal who is competent with a firearm."

Texas schools can already allow select teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons. The Legislature has made this exception – but only when school boards permit people with concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons.

To date, the Harrold Independent School District in North Texas is the only district to take advantage of that measure.

"We need to eliminate emotion,” said Patterson. “We need to stop the cliches and bumper sticker slogans and have a legitimate conversation about how we can make not just schools but all public places safer."

However, views change when open carry – which is illegal in Texas - is brought into the conversation. Patterson said he doubts that will come up for schools.

But one lawmaker – Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana - is already proposing a law to allow Texans to carry handguns in the open - not concealed - in general. But they would still need a concealed handgun permit to do so.
 

Copyright 2014 KXAN TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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