Utah bill encouraging teachers to get firearms training, carry on campus passes legislature

by Vern Evans

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A new bill in Utah that aims to encourage teachers to carry guns on campus by providing a tactical training program for educators passed in the state legislature last week.

Utah’s House Bill 119 would establish the “Educator-Protector Program,” which would include state-funded training to incentivize teachers to responsibly secure or carry a firearm on school grounds.

Under the measure, teachers who hold a valid concealed carry permit can participate for free in an annual program training them to defend their classrooms against active threats and to safely store, carry, load and unload firearms in a school setting.

Participating teachers would be expected to attend the free training course on an annual basis.

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Instructors appointed by county sheriffs would lead the training, which, according to the bill, would cost the Department of Public Safety about $100,000 annually.

The bill has divided Utah residents.

Clark Aposhian, a member of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, told FOX13 Salt Lake City that the bill is “a logical next step” since those with concealed carry permits in Utah can already carry firearms in schools.

“But what this does is incentivizes additional very specific classroom type training for defense of a classroom,” Aposhian said, adding that teachers are the “first engagers” during a school shooting.

Brian Peterson, a sixth-grade teacher at Lake Ridge Elementary School in Magna, told The Associated Press that the training would be “invaluable.”

“Knowing how to defend your classroom, whether it’s with a weapon or improvised weapon, is what teachers need,” he said.

Utah gun control advocates

Challengers to the bill, however, maintain that having more guns on school campuses could create a greater danger for students.

“Expecting teachers to make split-second decisions in high-stress situations may inadvertently blur the lines between core responsibilities and the burden of safeguarding students,” emergency nurse Jade Christensen told FOX13 Salt Lake City.

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Stan Holmes, a U.S. Army veteran with 30 years of teaching experience in Utah’s public schools, told news outlets that the similar training he took years ago was a “joke,” and that it failed to convince him that “everyone could handle themselves in a crisis situation.”

Someone firing a handgun

Participating teachers who choose not to carry a gun on their person would be required to pay out of pocket for a biometric gun safe, which uses unique biological data such as a fingerprint or retinal scan to verify the owner’s identity.

The bill also states that teachers who participate will be protected from civil liability if they use the gun on campus while “acting in good faith” and without gross negligence. School districts will also be shielded from liability if a participating teacher fires their weapon on school grounds.

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The bill will go into effect on May 1 if Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signs it into law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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