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ND Senate again defeats bill allowing concealed weapons in schools

BISMARCK – For the second consecutive session, the North Dakota Senate has shot down a House-approved bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools.

Senators voted 17-28 on Friday to defeat House Bill 1195, which would have enabled someone with a valid North Dakota concealed weapons license to pack heat on school property with permission from the school and training from local law enforcement.

The House had passed the bill 53-38 last month. A similar bill introduced by Kiefert during the 2013 session was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 18-27 after it passed the House 60-33.

Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, said HB1195 raised too many unanswered questions about what type of training would be required and who would provide it, potential difficulties getting liability insurance and whether an immunity clause for school districts would hold up in court.

Carrying the bill from the Senate Education Committee with a 4-2 do-not-pass recommendation, Oban also criticized it for not limiting conceal-carry only to school district staff and for keeping the names of those who would be carrying weapons confidential from the public.

“Do parents have a right to know if a person with whom their child is spending eight hours a day has a weapon locked up in their classroom or stored somewhere on their body during the course of a school day?” she said.

Rep. Dwight Kiefert, R-Valley City, the bill’s prime sponsor, had said not knowing who was carrying would be a deterrent to would-be shooters.

One western North Dakota lawmaker speaking in support of the bill said some schools in his district are 60 miles away from the nearest law enforcement center and don’t have an armed school resource officer. Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga, stressed that the bill would allow individual districts to decide whether to exercise the option.

“Some may feel it’s too dangerous to have someone in school with a weapon. The only thing that’s worse than that is to have an active shooter in the building with free rein to do whatever he or she wants to do and no one to attempt to stop that individual,” he said.

Oban said it’s “unfair and unwise to implore our schools with this kind of responsibility,” especially when the Legislature hasn’t done everything it can to assist in prevention, preparation and intervention.

“This bill doesn’t provide the better way. It provides the cheapest way and perhaps the riskiest one,” she said.

Last month, House members rejected a bill introduced by Kiefert that would have provided more than $1 million in state grants to 15 small school districts so each could hire a school resource officer. Kiefert had said that providing resource officers for all North Dakota schools was his preferred option, but it would cost an estimated $75 million a year.

Sen. Kyle Davison, R-Fargo, referred to that bill as he urged opposition to HB1195.

“Guns in school is way too important an issue … to be taking and voting green on Plan B,” he said.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.

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