Gov. Tom Wolf says new law ensures teachers can’t carry guns in schools

Some supporters of increased gun restrictions urged him to veto Senate Bill 621.

  • Ed Mahon

Despite calls for a veto from activists and groups that support increased gun restrictions, Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law a bill that will allow independent contractors to serve as armed security in Pa. schools.

The list of opponents included David Hogg, one of the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting in February 2018.

State Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 621. He said it clarifies existing language to ensure trained private contractors, as well as sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, can serve as armed security in schools. Plus, he said it establishes a baseline level of training.

Opponents of the bill include the Education Law Center, which advocates for vulnerable student populations, and CeaseFirePA, which supports increased gun restrictions to reduce gun violence.

They said the legislation would lead to more guns in schools and more opportunities for weapons to accidentally fall into the hands of students. And they said that, because of biases, students of color and students with disabilities would be at a greater risk of having a security officer pull a gun on them.

They also said ambiguity in the law could lead districts to try to hire teachers as independent contractors — and thus lead to armed teachers.

Senate Bill 621 passed out of the House with a 116-83 vote and out of the Senate with a 30-20 vote.

This was the first time CeaseFirePA, which frequently agrees with Wolf, urged him to veto a bill.

“The bills that we have been fighting, we’ve had good luck keeping off his desk, so this is our first request,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of the group.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a news conference on June 28, 2019, in the state Capitol, with preschool children sitting behind him.

But Wolf, who opposes arming teachers, signed the bill into law on Tuesday. He argued the legislation clears up ambiguity in existing law and now ensures that teachers cannot be armed in schools. The Democratic governor also highlighted the increased training requirements.

“The students, parents, and educators in this Commonwealth can now be secure in the knowledge that teachers can dedicate themselves to teaching our children, and that the security of school facilities rests in the hands of trained, professional security personnel,” Wolf said in his signing statement.

In a statement, CeaseFirePA and the Education Law Center said they were “very disappointed” but they will take Wolf, Regan and caucus leaders at their word “that this bill does not allow school districts to arm teachers and other nonsecurity personnel.”

They added, “Accordingly, we fully expect that if any school district attempts to use the provisions of SB 621 to arm teachers or other staff, the Wolf administration will use all means in its power to stop such attempts.”

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