Bulletproof backpacks bill advances, armed civilians fails

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Bulletproof backpacks for Louisiana students won support Monday from lawmakers who then turned a bill that would have allowed armed civilians to act as campus security guards into an early casualty in the debate over school safety.
The proposals, two of about two dozen gun bills filed this year, brought Democrats and Republicans in the Senate judicial committee to at least one shared thought.

“What a horrible state of affairs that we find ourselves in that we have to discuss this,” said Democratic Sen. Troy Carter, shortly after the backpack bill was introduced.

Sen. Mike Walsworth, the West Monroe Republican who sponsored the backpack measure, responded: “Absolutely.” His bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

The committee then narrowly rejected legislation that would have allowed parents or retired teachers who have concealed handgun permits and are either former or current military to act as school security officers with the approval of a principal.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Neil Riser, drew criticism from lawmakers as well as nine people who traveled to the Capitol to testify against the bill.

Opponents argued that having armed civilians at the scene of a school shooting could result in further confusion and noted that the same people who would be guarding students under the legislation wouldn’t be allowed to carry their guns at the statehouse. It was also opposed by Deborah Meaux, president of the 20,000-ember Louisiana Association of Educators.

“I wouldn’t want a good guy with a gun shooting another good guy with a gun,” Meaux said in an interview.

But Riser said there isn’t being enough done to safeguard schools in the state.

“To sit here and do nothing is not the answer,” said Riser, a Republican from Columbia.

The numerous gun-related bills filed this year in Louisiana come in the aftermath of last month’s shooting at a Florida high school where 17 people were killed.

Lawmakers have proposed measures allowing school employees to carry concealed firearms, a proposal to study the cost of putting silent alarms in classrooms and a bill to pay the families of teachers “killed in the line of duty.”

Efforts to bolster schools have gained traction across the country, too.

Parents in Kentucky have pooled money to pay an armed guard to patrol schools, a New Jersey town has started assigning off-duty police to school buildings and a rural school district in Pennsylvania has put a bucket of river stones in every classroom so teachers and students can throw the rocks at armed intruders.