Gun safety: Progress—and then pushback

Updated
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signs new legislation at the Capitol in Hartford, Conn. on April 4, 2013, that includes new restrictions on weapons and large...
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signs new legislation at the Capitol in Hartford, Conn. on April 4, 2013, that includes new restrictions on weapons and large...
Steven Senne/AP Images

A Texas measure that would designate and train school employees to respond to potential shooters as armed school marshals is heading to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk, after the State Senate passed the major gun bill Wednesday. The legislation echos Wayne LaPierre’s call to place armed police officers in every school, an idea introduced at the National Rifle Association’s first press conference following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.

School districts in Texas would allow school employees to carry concealed weapons on public school campuses under the school marshal program, which is modeled after the federal air marshal program, according to the bill’s author, Texas Rep. Jason Villalba. The bill’s author said the Newtown mass shooting led him to draft the legislation. Villalba argued that the Protection of Texas Children Act ”provides school districts with a cost-effective school security option that includes robust training tailored to protect children in schools during an active shooter situation.”

Only certain school officials, law enforcement officials and the Texas Department of Public Safety would be able to identify the school marshals, who would be authorized to respond only to an active shooter or other emergency situations. School districts lacking the resources to hire law enforcement officers for their campuses would appoint an educator, administrator, staff member or campus official to undergo 80 hours of training developed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. The training would include a mental health evaluation and firearms proficiency test more stringent than the concealed handgun license statutes.

The news of the major gun bill to pass the Texas Legislature falls on the same day a newly released Pew poll indicates broad support for the expansion of background checks. Eighty one percent of Americans believe Congress should pass legislation expanding background checks but a majority–56%–say it is unlikely that Congress will pass significant gun control laws this year. The poll also found that Democrats and independents were more supportive of passing the Senate background checks bill than Republicans. Nearly six in 10 Republicans support the Senate bill vs. 88% of Democrats and 71% of independents.

In April, the Senate rejected a gun proposal drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (a Democrat) and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that aimed to tighten restrictions on gun buyers and on firearm sales at gun shows and on the Internet. The failure to pass stricter gun legislation prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to put the bill on hold in the Senate.

While the school marshal bill advances in Texas, gun rights advocates are filing a lawsuit in federal court against Connecticut’s new gun control law, stating that the law signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy violates Connecticut’s constitution and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The gun lobby is asking a federal court in Bridgeport to overturn the law banning more than 100 types of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Connecticut’s gun control legislation was passed less than four months after the horrific Newtown shooting.

Filed by the Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League and with an assist from the National Rifle Association, the 49-page lawsuit argues that the rights of gun buyers have been largely curbed by the Connecticut government. “The lawsuit seeks to vindicate the constitutional rights of citizens who are harmed by the broad prohibitions and unworkable vagueness of the new law,” Scott Wilson, president of the CCDL said. “The suit also challenges Connecticut’s definition of assault weapons and cites confusion among law enforcement over what is and is not banned.”

Gun safety: Progress—and then pushback

Updated