Despite being on the books for almost a decade, a Texas law allowing school staff to carry weapons and interdict in mass shooter situations has drawn little interest.
According to a Texas Tribune report Tuesday, just 84 of the state's 1,200 school districts have armed staff despite a 2013 law giving licensed educators and district employees the ability to carry firearms in the schools and react to mass shooting incidents earlier.
"Whoever is serving as the school marshal acts immediately," the Tribune reported former state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, saying at the time, explaining how his bill would protect Texans in active shooter situations. "The whole point of this is to reduce response times from minutes down to seconds."
The legislation, passed in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, which killed 20 students and six teachers, grants district employees with a license to carry firearms the ability to become part of the School Marshals Program which was designed to meet such threats as what just took place in Uvalde, Texas.
A gunman went inside the Robb Elementary School in that town on May 24 and killed 19 students and two teachers before federal Customs and Border Protection officers stormed the classroom, killing the shooter.
"The sole purpose of a School Marshal is to prevent the act of murder or serious bodily injury on school premises, and act only as defined by the written regulations adopted by the School Board/Governing Body," the legislation said.
Candidates for the program must be employees of the appointing district, have a valid license to carry a firearm, pass a psychological test, and attend 80 hours of training to be issued a program license, according to the state.
Only 361 such licenses have been issued since the program began in a state with 9,000 school campuses and more than 369,000 teachers, according to the Tribune's report.
"If we have a school marshal program already and districts are not taking advantage of it, maybe it makes more sense to figure out why districts don't want to do that rather than push another opportunity," Jayne Serna, a veteran Austin-area secondary school teacher who now teaches at Austin Community College, told the Tribune.
While educators express reluctance about the program, including having guns around students, Villalba said funding the program adequately would do more to get volunteers on board.
"I'm heartsick that we haven't implemented this plan in a more robust fashion," he told The Texas Tribune. "Unfortunately, it takes a catalyst like Uvalde and Santa Fe before action is taken. Hopefully, this will be a moment when the state decides to mandate a program and provide necessary funding to pay for it."
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