House bill sets up licensing for armed staff in Iowa schools

DES MOINES — The Iowa House has approved a bill designed to give liability protection to schools that choose to let teachers or other staff volunteer to undergo training and carry a weapon to respond to a shooting.

Representative Phil Thompson, a Republican from Boone, said the bill requires not just active shooter drills and medical training, but a yearly background check for the professional permit to carry a gun on school grounds.

“We recognize that this responsibility must be taken very seriously,” Thompson said. “The strict training regimen outlined in this bill ensures that the employees who acquire this permit are equipped with the skills and the proficiency to act appropriately in the event of an emergency.”

Republican Representative John Wills is from Spirit Lake, where trained school staff briefly carried concealed weapons, but quit after the district’s insurance carrier threatened to drop coverage. Wills said Spirit Lake, Cherokee and other districts are hoping the bill becomes law soon. “And it will save lives when cowards attack our kids,” Wills said.

House Republican Leader Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley said seconds count when there’s a shooting. “People with bad intentions are going to do bad things,” Windshitl said. “People with good intentions are there to stop them.”

Windshitl said he’s heard from companies that insure schools in states that have similar laws that they’ll offer policies to Iowa districts that let staff be armed on school grounds and at school activities. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said the bill will reduce the liability risk for insurers, but would allow a “frightening” number of guns in Iowa schools.

“If a student is hurt or killed in crossfire, no one will be held accounable,” she said.

Representative Sami Scheetz, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the bill isn’t the answer to gun violence. “Let’s enact extreme risk laws, responsible firearm storage laws, raise the age to purchase semi-automatic firearms to 21 and require background checks on all gun sales,” Scheetz said.

Representative Lindsay James of Dubuque is among the Democrats who mentioned January’s fatal school shooting in Perry. James said Iowans want common sense gun safety laws.

“And the Republican solution tto combat gun violence is more guns,” James said.

A few other education-related bills passed the House last night solely with Republican support. One would create a new set of standards for social studies and civics classes, requiring instruction about specific people, events and documents. Another would require that all schools teach about fetal development starting in seventh grade and include an animated video called “Meet Baby Olivia” that was developed by a group that opposes abortion.