County education boards in West Virginia could contract with military veterans and retired law enforcement officers to provide armed security at K-12 public schools under a bill passed Friday by the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Republican Sen. Eric Tarr of Putnam County said the bill was brought to him by retired military officers concerned about school shootings happening across the country.
Tarr, who chairs Senate Finance, said retired officers told him that "we need people in our schools who are trained to run at a gun at an instant when it’s necessary to protect our children."
The bill passed unanimously with support from the 34-member body's three Democrats. Two Republicans were absent and didn't vote.
The legislation will now be considered by the House of Delegates.
The West Virginia Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it failed to advance in the House. A House committee passed a different bill last year that would allow K-12 teachers, administrators and support personnel with concealed carry permits to carry guns in schools, but it wasn't taken up again.
Seen here is West Virginia's Capitol dome in Charleston, W.Va. A bill passed by the state Senate will allow military veterans and retired law enforcement officers to provide armed security at K-12 public schools. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner, File)
This year's Senate bill would allow county boards of education to contract with an honorably discharged veteran, former state trooper, former deputy sheriff or former federal law enforcement officer. The contractor would not be a school resource officer or considered law enforcement, nor would they have arrest power.
The contractor would need to have a concealed carry permit, pass a preemployment drug screening and have undergone physical, vision and psychiatric examinations. The bill also requires potential contractors to undergo training with the West Virginia State Police and complete a course on firearms and/or lethal use of force.
School boards wouldn't be permitted to hire a contractor convicted of domestic violence, driving under the influence or child abuse, among other criminal offenses.
Under the bill, any county board of education could contract with as many veterans or retired officers as it deems necessary. Republican Sen. Laura Wakim Chapman of Ohio County called the bill a crucial step toward making state public schools safer.
"Our teachers, our staff and our children deserve to go to school every day knowing that they will come home at night," she said.