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The Texas House on Tuesday advanced a bill that would require school districts to place at least one armed officer or employee on each campus as part of a school safety push this session by lawmakers after a gunman last year killed 19 children and two teachers in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
House Bill 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, would require any armed officer or employee who is placed in a school to complete school safety-specific handgun instruction training. The bill would also require at least one annual intruder detection audit in each district, and it calls for local law enforcement in rural counties to meet with school district officials about safety.
HB 3, which the House passed by a 119-25 vote, would provide districts with at least $100 per student and $15,000 per campus to maintain and improve school safety.
“At the end of the day, teachers, students and their families deserve safe classrooms, and school administrators need the support of the state and cooperation of law enforcement to make those safe classrooms a reality,” Burrows said.
San Antonio Democratic Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde and has filed several gun control proposals in the Senate which have yet to receive a hearing, said in a news conference Tuesday that the House's proposal is a good start but more needs to be done.
"Let me be very clear: I'm for anything that's going to make our schools safer," Gutierrez said Tuesday. "But the three things that is going to really make our schools safer is extreme risk protective orders, you take guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, Florida did it, it worked; raising the age limit, take guns, AR-15's out of (the hands of) 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, Florida did it, it worked; closing the gun show loophole and universal background checks."
The House on Tuesday also advanced HB 13 by Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, which would require mental health training for employees working with students; tighten regulations about schools’ active shooter plans; and create a school guardian program, which would allow school employees who are certified to carry guns on a campus.
Here's what's proposed: Uvalde families testify to raise purchasing age for AR-15-style guns.
“HB 13 allows districts to create safety plans that work best for their local communities while ensuring minimum standards for all districts,” King said.
Both bills are part of a handful of sweeping school safety bills that would collectively invest $1.6 billion in school safety, create programs to arm school employees and tighten auditing and reporting requirements around school security infrastructures.
During debates over the bills Monday, some House members raised concerns about the possibility that both proposals would produce more guns on campuses.
Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, worried there aren’t enough specifications in the bills about the type of training campus employees would need to complete before being allowed to carry guns in schools.
“How are we going to make sure that those people who are armed on school campuses are making them safer, not making them more dangerous?” Goodwin asked.
Still others were alarmed that the bills would open the door for any district employee, including teachers, to carry guns in schools. HB 3 requires each school to have at least one armed officer or employee, and that person would need to undergo training.
Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, D-Richardson, offered an amendment Monday that would have narrowed the type of employees who could carry a weapon in schools, but that proposal was shot down.
“Expecting to confront and neutralize an active shooter is not realistic, and frankly (it's) absurd,” Ramos said. “Putting in a teacher in a position to possibly have to shoot their own student, this is definitely incredible that we’re even having this conversation today.”
The House advanced its school safety proposals about a week after the Senate approved Senate Bill 11, by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, which is similar to HB 3 but focuses more on reducing the number of days a student can be truant. SB 11 also seeks to give each campus between $15,000 to $16,800, depending on size, for school safety.
The House Committee on Public Education heard SB 11 on Tuesday.
The House on Tuesday also passed SB 838 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, which requires districts to put silent panic alert buttons in classrooms.
American-Statesman writer Nicole Griswold contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas House Bill 3 advances, requires armed employee at all schools