AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas House late Monday approved a plan to train some teachers who are already licensed to carry firearms for gunfights that could erupt in their classrooms.
With a simple voice vote and no debate, lawmakers passed a proposal drafted by Sen. Dan Patrick that would apply to traditional public school and charter campuses that don't already employ armed guards. Patrick, a Houston tea party Republican, chairs the Senate Education Committee and his bill sailed through that chamber on a 28-3 vote last month.
It must clear a final, procedural vote in the House before heading to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, a fierce supporter of Second Amendment rights.
Several proposals to extend the reach of guns in schools have gained traction in the Texas Legislature, which meets every other year but opened its session mere weeks after 20 schoolchildren were killed in the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Supporters insist the measure is about promoting school safety, not increasing the concentration of guns in school areas. But opponents are wary.
Patrick's proposal directs the state to pay for 16 hours of instruction overseen by the Department of Public Safety. Two employees on each campus could take classes instructing teachers and other school personnel already certified to carry concealed handguns to first conceal children, then return fire.
All training would be voluntary and free to districts and participating employees.
Teachers are already permitted to carry guns in class with permission of their local school boards, though few districts around the state have actually chosen to allow that.
The program was originally expected to cost nearly $9.4 million over two years, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board.
Patrick, however, inserted language directing that no more than $1 million be spent on it per two-year budget period. He said he was unsure how many districts around the state would seek such training if the bill were to become law. But he added that if extra state funding is needed, districts might be able to raise additional money through community donations.
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