Senate panel rejects guns for school workers

February 27, 2013 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Lawmakers have turned down a proposal to allow teachers, principals and other school workers to carry concealed handguns to help guard against shootings in New Mexico’s [auth] schools.

State law prohibits guns on school premises except in limited instances, such as by police and security guards.

Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, a Sandia Park Republican, proposed allowing up to three employees in a school to carry concealed weapons if they had a state license for the firearm. It would have been left to local schools to decide whether to permit their workers to carry a gun on campus.

“This measure would allow an immediate level of protection in our schools,” said Beffort.

The Education Committee voted 6-3 on Wednesday to table the legislation, which effectively will kill it. The measure will remain bottled up in the panel as time runs out in the session. The Legislature adjourns in slightly more than two weeks.

Beffort said more mental health counselors and armed guards may be needed in schools but there’s no money in the state budget to provide for them. She said an armed school worker could save lives by keeping a gunman at bay until law enforcement arrive.

The National Rifle Association and New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association backed her proposal, but it drew opposition from current and former educators.

“The last thing I want is additional guns in my building,” said Diane Garcia Piro, a middle school principal in Santa Fe.

She questioned whether an employee would have enough training to properly react to a potential shooting in a school.

Sen. Gay Kernan, a Hobbs Republican and committee member, echoed those concerns.

“I don’t know how I could perform my duties as a first-grade teacher with a gun,” said Kernan, a retired educator who joined the committee’s Democrats in opposing the measure.

New Mexico grants licenses for concealed handguns to residents who are 21 or older, are U.S. citizens and meet other requirements, including completion of a firearms training course, fingerprinting and a criminal background check.

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