Return to story
RICHMOND--Legislation to arm Virginia public school employees was sent Thursday night to Gov. Bob McDonnell's school-safety task force.
A historically pro-gun-rights legislative subcommittee deferred Del. Bob Marshall's bill at the request of the administration, which wants legislation filed in response to December's mass school shooting in Connecticut to be vetted by the 45-member Task Force on School and Campus Safety. The task force, co-chaired by McDonnell's top public safety and mental health officials, has been tasked with making recommendations before the General Assembly adjourns next month.
Marshall's bill would require school boards to designate one person in every school who would be authorized to carry a concealed handgun on school property. The armed person could be a teacher, volunteer or other staff member who would undergo the same rigorous training as police officers. People who volunteer for the position would pay for their own training.
"I don't want any more sorrow to take place," Marshall, R-Prince William, told the House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee. "If we don't do this, we are inviting innocents to be slaughtered."
Several gun-rights supporters, many wearing lapel stickers saying "Guns Save Lives," spoke in favor of the bill. They argued that maintaining schools as "gun-free zones" makes children easy targets.
"Every day that ticks by, our children are at risk," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Gun-control proponents urged the panel to reject the bill.
"This is just a horrible idea," said Rebecca Caffrey of One Million Moms 4 Gun Control. "You don't mix more firearms with small children."
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said that while he and other subcommittee members agree with the concept of the bill, the details need closer examination.
"This is all very raw," he said, adding that the bill would have a better chance of passage if it is made part of the task force package.
The panel also unanimously killed several gun-control measures, including one to prohibit the sale of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Others would have required criminal background checks for private gun sales--not just those by dealers--and would have tightened requirements in the state's concealed-weapons-permit law.