UTAH LEGISLATURE

Opposition groups call for Gov. Cox to veto employee firearm bill for teachers, school staff

Mar 4, 2024, 6:41 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — HB119, a newly passed bill that would provide training and legal protection to teachers and school staff carrying concealed firearms on campus is receiving backlash from opponents who say it was rushed through the legislative session.

“This bill was rushed through the process at the end of the session with barely any discussion,” said Nancy Halden, spokeswoman for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.

During a press conference Monday on Utah’s Capitol Hill, supporters of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah asked Gov. Spencer Cox to veto the bill and lawmakers to provide more evidence-based research that shows the effectiveness of armed teachers on school campuses.

HB119 is loaded with faulty assumptions and equally bad provision, it wrongly assumes that in a crisis, teachers with firearms will use them at least responsibly as trained law enforcement officers,” said Stan Holmes, a retired public high school teacher of 30 years who opposes the bill.

While discussing the bill on the House Floor during the final days of the legislative session, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Tim Jimenez explained that its intent is to provide more training to teachers and school staff who already carry a concealed weapon and provide a safety plan for those who would like to.

“As teachers are already carrying firearms, I thought it best to make sure they are actually trained on how to use firearms,” he said. “This bill does not teach teachers to go out and start acting like Rambo and go out and looking around for the bad guys, what we’re trying to do is a defensive position. If there is an active shooter situation a teacher can defend their classroom and defend their students or their gym.”

Rep. Jimenez says HB119 will also provide a biometric safe for teachers or staff on campus who decide to carry a concealed weapon and don’t want to keep it on their person, it also provides legal protection if the weapon must be used.

“The last thing I want is a teacher worrying about what a lawyer is going to do when they go to defend their classroom, so we indemnify teachers who go through this program and stay up to date,” he said.

Opponents of HB119 worry that if the Governor signs the bill into law, it will incentivize minimally trained school staff to carry firearms on campus ultimately putting students at risk. They said they worry about the burden placed on teachers to protect their classrooms instead of focusing on teaching and doing the job they were hired to do.

“A teacher’s job is to educate and mentor, they cannot also task them with the duties of law enforcement and first responders,” said Nia Maile, a former Hunter High School Student who lost two family members to the 2022 shooting near Hunter High School.  “We do not need more guns in schools, and we do not need more scare tactics.”

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Opposition groups call for Gov. Cox to veto employee firearm bill for teachers, school staff