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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 17, 2019 04:16 PM
From: Senator Donald C. White
To: All Senate members
Subject: Clarifying the authority of school district employees to be permitted access to firearms
In the aftermath of a number of tragic school shootings, the debate continues across the country on how we can better protect our children, teachers and staff. I plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 383 from last session, which would clarify the current law and give school districts the authority to allow administrators, teachers or other staff to have access to firearms on school property.

Currently the law in Pennsylvania is unclear as to whether schools have such authority. In fact, this uncertainty in the law has recently prompted teachers in Pennsylvania’s Tamaqua School District to file a lawsuit against the school board to stop implementation of a policy that would authorize employees to carry guns in their schools. Given this controversy, and the likelihood of similar lawsuits in the future, I believe this proposed legislation is timely and necessary.

The section of the law in question is contained in the PA Crimes Code and provides a defense for a weapon that is “possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.” According to the Department of Education, the scope of law, specifically in regard to “other lawful purpose” is “unclear and unsettled, especially as it relates to school employees and parents (or citizens) possessing a weapon on school property.” A letter from former Secretary Rivera is attached which further outlines the department’s analysis of the statute. Also enclosed is a letter from the Indiana County District Attorney who interprets the law to include the act of protecting school students as an “other lawful purpose” or “lawful supervised school activity.” As such, he believes school boards already have the authority to permit their employees to carry firearms on school property.

My legislation would clear up the uncertainty in the law and establish a framework to serve as guidance for school districts. This proposal would allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if they receive authorization from the school board of directors, are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and handling of firearms (as outlined in my proposal). The bill will not mandate a school’s participation, but will give school boards the ability to establish policy and put in place protocols needed to enable personnel to exercise their ability to access a firearm on designated school property.

Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation. Questions regarding this proposal can be directed to Anne Achenbach, of my staff, at 787-4404 or at aachenbach@pasen.gov.

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