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Colyer Says Bonuses Might Be Good, But Arming Teachers Is A Local District Call

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Kansas News Service
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer thinks bonuses to teachers who carry weapons might help prevent school shootings, but that it's ultimately up to local districts.

Kansas schools already have the freedom to arm their teachers. Gov. Jeff Colyer says now bonuses for teachers who pack weapons might be in order.

Yet the governor also said that local school districts should make the call, embracing those options that they think make the most sense to prevent school shootings.

“It’s not just a gun control issue,” Colyer said at an event in Washington, D.C., last week. “It’s not just a mental health issue. It’s not just the building itself. This is a multi-point situation.”

His comments came in the wake of the school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., early this month -- and the debates that have followed.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Colyer appeared to back legislation pending in Topeka that would lower the age for the concealed carry of a firearm to 18, down from 21.

“If you’re old enough to serve in the U.S. military,” he told NPR’s Ari Shapiro, “then I think having that Second Amendment right should not be denied to you.”

President Donald Trump has, for the moment, seemed to give a little on his hard-line stance against gun control.

He’s said his administration may unilaterally outlaw bump stocks that can make a semi-automatic rifle fire multiple rounds of ammunition almost like a fully automatic weapon. And Trump has suggested he may side against the National Rifle Association in raising the legal age for purchasing a rifle to 21, from the current level of 18.

The president has also talked about the possibility of arming teachers and other school workers to discourage, or more quickly subdue, potential school shooters.

Colyer said that bonuses for armed teachers might be a good idea for local districts to consider. School districts in Kansas already have the authority to arm their school faculties.

“This is not something that we have championed as a universally good idea,” said Mark Tallman, the associate executive director for advocacy and communications for the Kansas Association of School Boards. “We have recognized that the law allows it,” he said.

But districts have balked, in part because the companies that provide them liability insurance see too much risk.

EMC Insurance Companies covers most districts in the state. It has said that arming employees creates a “heightened liability.”

“One of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any onsite armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” the company said in an emailed statement.

The carrier said it won’t cover school districts where “non-security personnel” are allowed handguns.

“There certainly are issues of liability that I know our staff would encourage school districts to be very careful about,” said Tallman.

KASB has not heard of any school districts allowing its employees to be armed.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

Stephan Bisaha is a former NPR Kroc Fellow. Along with producing Weekend Edition, Stephan has reported on national stories for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as other NPR programs. He provided data analysis for an investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs and reported on topics ranging from Emojis to mattresses.
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