Weather Forecast

Click for Grant, Nebraska Forecast

Interest is high in Christensen’s LB 516 PDF Print E-mail

With governing board approval, proposal would allow school staff to carry guns

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

State Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial has been interviewed by Fox News, a radio station in San Diego and even a Toronto, Canada, newspaper.
That’s in addition to just about every major TV station and other media outlets in Nebraska.
They are all interested, he said, in his LB 516, a bill that, if passed, would authorize the carrying of concealed handguns in educational institutions by security personnel, administrators and teaching staff.
Christensen introduced LB 516 on Jan. 18.
Before it would be allowed, the school board, or college governing board, would have to approve the carrying of handguns by their staff on a two-thirds majority vote.
The board vote can designate whether administration, or security or teachers can have the guns, or allow all of them to do so, Christensen said.
After the recent shooting at Millard South High School in Omaha, Christensen said, “It’s time for the discussion.”
In the Jan. 5 Millard South incident, a disgruntled student came back to the school with a gun after receiving a 19-day suspension that morning for damaging school property.
He shot two principals, killing one, before turning the gun on himself.
Christensen believes there’s such high interest in his proposed legislation because it’s never been introduced before.
While he said he considered introducing the same bill a couple of years ago, after visiting then with some constituents, he didn’t feel it was the right time.
But, that changed after Millard South, he said.
Christensen said we have “tied teachers’ hands” with regard to discipline. “And that’s not the teachers’ fault,” he emphasized. “It’s the parents and society as a whole.”
The senator from Imperial, just starting his second four-year term, knows it will be tough getting the bill out of the judiciary committee, on which he formerly served. He sees a 4/4 committee split on support for his bill.
“It will be tough to get it out (of committee) and onto the floor,” he said.
“But, it would pass if it gets onto the floor,” he predicted.
CCS Supt. Matt Fisher said Christensen’s proposal is “certainly a dramatic change from the traditional line of thought.
“I certainly understand where Mark is coming from, and if you get beyond the initial gut reaction, I feel it would be a deterrent,” Fisher said.
However, he said it’s an issue he would want to move slowly on, if it’s considered at all by the Chase County Schools’ board of education.
He continued, “It’s one of those issues that if it was done correctly, people were trained and you knew they’d react properly, the whole concept has potential to save lives in particular situations.”
It’s just a different thought, he said.
Fisher said if the bill would pass and would come up at a CCS board meeting, it would be something they’d certainly discuss over several months.
“This is one of those things that truly should be a community decision,” he said.
“The board would want to get public input,” he added.
In a McCook conference call Christensen held shortly after the bill’s introduction, a school board member there said education is the answer, rather than guns.
Christensen said it was very important to him that the legislation mandate that handguns be allowed in schools only with school or governing board approval.
“The board must choose to go there,” he said.
Other provisions of the bill include:
• Those carrying a concealed handgun must be a legal gun permit holder; and
• Written notice of such a concealed handgun policy at any school must be given to all students and parents/guardians.
Christensen, who is the lone sponsor of LB 516, gauges public support at 60/40, with 60 percent supportive.
Shortly after news was out about the bill, he said he was emailed by a teacher in Imperial who thanked him.