Jan. 17--A bill that would allow teachers and other employees to carry concealed handguns in Nebraska schools won't get any support from local administrators.
But Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial didn't draft the legislation with Columbus and other urban school districts in mind.
Christensen introduced the bill (LB879) this week with a focus on the state's rural communities, some of which are miles from the nearest law enforcement.
The proposal, which is similar to a measure Christensen backed in 2009, is a way to better protect children while they're in school, he said.
"If we really care about the kids, don't we want to have the maximum security for them?" Christensen said Thursday, two days after introducing his bill in the Nebraska Legislature.
The lawmaker from southwest Nebraska said communities and schools in the state's rural areas can be 15 miles or more from the closest police department or sheriff's office, creating a delayed response time should an incident occur there. Many of the same smaller, rural school districts can't afford to hire security officers or implement other costly measures, according to Christensen.
"Do we want to wait 30-40 minutes response time and puts kids at risk?" he said.
His solution is to let each school district decide whether teachers and other employees should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Under the bill, local school boards would decide whether to adopt a concealed-carry policy and have the final say on whether individual permits are approved.
"Nebraska is such a diverse state that we just can't have one size fits all," said Christensen, who noted that the policies might not be the best security options for schools in Omaha, Lincoln and other large cities.
To qualify for a permit, school employees would be required to take an additional 24 hours of training beyond the eight hours necessary to legally carry a concealed gun. This training would include best practices for responding to a live shooting.
Christensen believes there are many teachers, such as retired military members, who are qualified to safely handle a firearm in schools, which he called an "easy target" for criminals who know nobody inside the buildings is armed.
A "number" of teachers have already told him they plan to testify in support of the bill, he said.
However, that support won't come from leaders at the three local schools.
Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz said he opposes the proposal for multiple reasons.
Although the country is far from free of school violence, Loeffelholz said schools are still one of the safest places for children to be.
"I don't want 30 guns in school," he said. "It's just not a place for it."
The CPS superintendent said staff members should be "models of good behavior" for students, which includes maintaining gun-free schools.
"Your best defense (against violence) is really your relationship with your kids," said Loeffelholz, adding that CPS has seen success with programs designed to reduce bullying and harassment and identify potential problems early on.
All of the schools within the Columbus Public and Lakeview districts, as well as Scotus Central Catholic, feature secured entrances with camera systems and two school resource officers also serve the seven CPS buildings and five parochial schools.
These uniformed Columbus Police officers carry a handgun and their response time to emergencies at any of the schools is relatively short, according to Columbus High School Principal Steve Woodside.
Scotus also utilizes the resource officers, a service President Wayne Morfeld said is greatly appreciated.
The parochial school doesn't need approval from the state Legislature to allow concealed weapons, but Scotus employees won't be carrying handguns in the foreseeable future.
"We are never going in that direction," Morfeld said, "not as long as I'm in charge."
Lakeview Superintendent Russ Freeman agreed with his colleagues, saying he doesn't have a high interest in allowing teachers and other staff members to carry handguns.