COLUMBIA — South Carolina public school employees with concealed weapons permits would be allowed to carry guns on school grounds under legislation proposed for the upcoming session.
Rep. Phillip Lowe, who pre-filed the bill this week, said Wednesday that schools are vulnerable and need protection. By allowing employees, from teachers to cafeteria workers and janitors, to carry guns, Lowe says that this bill might be a way to protect kids if the school comes under attack.
“By having a weapon, we may be able to limit the carnage in an incident,” the Florence Republican told The Associated Press. “You’ve got to have it so people don’t know who’s carrying a weapon, that anyone and everyone could be.”
Under the proposal, school employees could carry guns on the campus where they work, including at public colleges and universities. They’d need concealed weapons permits and would be required to be qualified as an expert marksman by state police.
Lowe’s proposal for the session, which begins Jan. 8 in Columbia, comes less than a week after a brutal attack on a Connecticut elementary school, where 20 children and six adults were killed by a man carrying a military-style rifle who killed himself.
But Lowe said the idea was first proposed in South Carolina after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, where a gunman killed 32 people and himself in the nation’s worst mass shooting.
That measure never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee, the same panel that will consider Lowe’s new proposal.
Lowe is a National Rifle Association member and said he owns guns but doesn’t have a concealed weapons permit. He said he’s fielded supportive calls from administrators and teachers, including a third-grade instructor who said she would gladly bring her gun to school to defend her students.
“I think we should give them that opportunity,” Lowe said. “We’re not looking for heroes here. We are looking to prevent.”
Employees would have to tell school officials about the weapon and have no history of violence, and a principal who felt that a particular employee wasn’t a good candidate to carry a weapon on campus could take that issue to administrators.
“I don’t want everybody to have a gun in school. I want people who feel like it’s their duty to help protect children,” Lowe said. “We trust them with our children right now, and this is just one more step.”