Villalba: Allow Teachers to Carry Concealed Guns

In response to last week's Connecticut school shooting, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, says he will file legislation to allow public school teachers to carry concealed weapons while on campus.

The bill, which Villalba is calling the Protection of Texas Children Act, would permit Texas schools to appoint a member of their faculty as a "school marshal." The marshal, with training and certification, would be able to "use lethal force upon the occurrence of an attack in the classroom or elsewhere on campus," according to a press release from Villalba, a newly elected state representative.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere at all times," Villalba said in a statement. "We need to talk very frankly about how we can protect our children if the unthinkable should occur."

Villalba's move is one of several Texas responses this week to the elementary school shooting that has rattled the nation. On Monday, Attorney General Greg Abbott said 78 Texas school districts do not meet state-mandated safety standards to protect students. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, have both said publicly that the events in Connecticut could have been avoided if school officials had been armed. And at an event in Tarrant County on Monday night, Gov. Rick Perry suggested that local control should rule — and school districts should decide for themselves whether to allow their employees to carry firearms. 

Under current Texas law, school districts can grant written permission for employees to carry firearms on campus. Harrold ISD, a district in northwest Texas with roughly 100 students, allows teachers to carry concealed handguns under what they call a "Guardian Plan," set up in the wake of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech.

David Thewatt, the district's superintendent, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his district did not want a plan where you "lock yourself in your closet and hope that an intruder won't hurt you." As with Villalba's proposal, employees there must be approved by the school district in order to carry a concealed firearm.

The Texas Education Agency has no policy on concealed weapons in schools, and looks to local district attorneys to enforce current laws, agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. 

Villalba's proposal would create a training system for potential concealed-weapon holding employees of public schools, which would be paid for either by school districts or the employees themselves. Under his plan, there would be one armed employee for every 400 students, marshals who would be unidentifiable except to the school principal, law enforcement and school district administrators. The employees would purchase and maintain their own weapons.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.