After a brief debate, the Texas Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would allow local school boards to let their marshals carry their concealed guns on campuses.
The legislation — Senate Bill 406 by Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury — would eliminate the mandate that trained school marshals, whose identities are kept secret from all but a few local officials, keep their firearms under lock and key.
More specifically, it would give the board of trustees or the governing body of public schools, open-enrollment charter schools, private schools and junior colleges the discretion to decide whether their marshals carry their weapons on their person or in a locked and secured safe.
The measure passed 28-3, with Democratic state Sens. José Menéndez of San Antonio, José Rodríguez of El Paso and Kirk Watson of Austin voting against it. The bill can now be sent to the Texas House for debate.
“The code we’re currently dealing with specifically requires that those individuals who are designated as school marshals store their handguns in a locked box at all times,” Birdwell told other senators. “While a marshal would be acting in accordance with this state law, the practicality of this security is nullified if a school marshal cannot protect their students at the critical time and the critical place.”
To be clear, SB 406 does not compel school districts to implement a marshal program. Nor does it compel local districts to force marshals to openly carry their weapons.
“School districts retain the discretion to decide whether to implement the school marshal program fully, not at all or to some degree,” Birdwell said.
Eliminating the lockbox requirement for school marshals was one of many suggestions Gov. Greg Abbott outlined for the Legislature in a 43-page plan released weeks after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in May that left 10 dead and 13 others wounded.
Gun control advocates, meanwhile, criticized the passage of the bill. In a statement, the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said SB 406 “would make school a much more dangerous place for our children.”
“It’s baffling that lawmakers are trying to strip gun storage standards in our schools,” wrote Hilary Whitfield, volunteer leader with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “That is a recipe for disaster.”
During a brief floor debate, some Democrats echoed these worries.
“I’m concerned about the potential for there being more gun-related accidents,” Menéndez said.
Other lawmakers praised Birdwell for giving local school boards the ability to decide how to implement the the marshal program.
“I like your safeguards,” said state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville. “I appreciate you giving [the school boards] the discretion to come together and make decisions at the local level.”