Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Tuesday creating new training requirements for armed school security personnel, despite fears by gun-control activists and his fellow Democrats that it could allow teachers and untrained professionals to carry firearms.
Wolf signed the proposal from Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, five days after the Republican-controlled Senate approved it by a vote of 30-20. Democrats cast all negative votes.
Wolf issued a statement to accompany his signature, saying the bill “removes any ambiguity about whether teachers may be designated as ‘security personnel.’”
“The students, parents, and educators in this Commonwealth can now be secure in the knowledge that teachers can dedicate themselves to teaching our children, and that the security of school facilities rests in the hands of trained, professional security personnel,” the statement reads.
The bill amends Pennsylvania’s school code to allow schools to hire independent contractors and third-party vendors to perform security duties. It also eliminates a provision in current law that prohibits school security guards from engaging in programs with students.
Democrats who opposed the bill said it failed to create strict training requirements for third-party contractors. CeaseFire Pennsylvania, a leading gun-control advocacy group, also called on Wolf to veto it.
A memo CeaseFire issued with the Education Law Center last week said it would allow districts to designate trained teachers as armed security guards.
CeaseFire’s Executive Director Shira Goodman said her organization was disappointed to learn Wolf signed Regan’s bill.
But she hopes Wolf’s statement will deter school districts from pointing to the new law to arm their teachers.
“I’ll take the governor at his word,” Goodman said. “We expect that if someone tries to manipulate the law and arm teachers, the full power of [Wolf’s] administration will come out to stop it.”
Goodman said that advocates for education, disability rights, and gun control all mobilized in recent days to pressure Wolf to reject the bill.
David Hogg, a gun control activist and survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, tweeted about the bill on Tuesday. He called on Wolf to veto the proposal, and shared instructions with his nearly 1 million Twitter followers to call or email the governor’s office to voice their concerns.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) July 2, 2019
Gun-rights activist Kim Stolfer, meanwhile, welcomed the news of Wolf’s signature on Tuesday. Stolfer, president of Firearms Owners Against Crime, told the Capital-Star last week that his organization views the bill as a way to arm teachers.
“Overall, it’s good,” Stolfer told the Capital-Star. “It’s positive news that Gov. Wolf realizes we have to increase security for our kids.”