The Texas Senate moved the state one step closer to teachers having guns on their hips in class, voting 28-3 Wednesday to end a requirement that all guns belonging to members of the state's school marshal program be kept in a locked box.
Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Republican who represents portions of North and Central Texas, said it was imperative for school staff who've already been authorized by their school district to have their guns at school to be able to use them, regardless of the duties they might have on a given day.
Birdwell described a situation where a given school district's appointed marshal might have playground duty and would then be unable to quickly retrieve his or her gun should someone else start shooting.
"That doesn't provide for safety and security," Birdwell said. "This bill simply allows for the school board to have the discretion to decide, 'Do I want this teacher, custodian or administrator to be able to carry during some parts of the day?'"
Dallas Democrat Nathan Johnson, who eventually voted for Birdwell's bill, asked if the bill would increase the total number of guns on Texas K-12 campuses. Birdwell said that it wouldn't.
"If the Dallas ISD doesn't want this discretion, the bill would afford them that, but they don't have to exercise it," Birdwell said.
San Antonio's Jose Menendez, one of three senators to vote against Birdwell's bill, worried about guns being less secure on school campuses.
"I'm just concerned that there will be the potential for more gun-related accidents," Menendez said.
Texas passed its school marshal program, which allows specially trained employees to have guns on campus at the state's K-12 schools as well as two-year colleges, in 2013. Dallas ISD has not implemented, or even strongly considered adopting, the marshal program. In the aftermath of the school shooting at Texas' Santa Fe High School last spring, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa explained his thoughts on the program.
"I would not recommend the marshal program in our context," Hinojosa said. "Teachers get hired, in my opinion, to help kids, and if you're trained to do the opposite — I've seen, even our police chief has talked about, even police officers who are trained to do this, whenever they have to actually hold their firearm, a lot of them go into the fetal position. They have trouble dealing with it. Very few people realize a lot of law enforcement officers never shoot their gun, and that's what their whole skill is."