Iowa teachers could bring their own guns to work under GOP bill

Screenshot of Iowa House Public Safety Committee, Feb. 14

By Ty Rushing

February 14, 2024

Teachers or school staff members would be allowed to use a personal firearm and the identities of armed staffers would be concealed—per a suggestion from the NRA—under a new bill being considered in the Iowa House. 

These and other changes were clarified during a Wednesday morning Iowa Hosuse Public Safety Committee meeting over HSB 675, a school staff armament bill that Iowa Republicans are touting as a way to stop school shootings. 

The bill passed the subcommittee in a 13-8 vote and is eligible for debate on the Iowa House floor. 

During the subcommittee, Rep. Phil Thompson (R-Boone), who introduced the legislation, noted there would be an amendment to the bill. 

As it stands, HSB 675 would allow school districts, private schools, and colleges to arm staff. Armed staffers would undergo a one-time “in-person legal training, including training on qualified immunity, annual emergency medical training,” and annual communication training, all of which have to be approved by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

School staff issued a permit to carry by the Department of Public Safety and who are up-to-date on their training would also “be entitled to qualified immunity from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred pursuant to the application of reasonable force at the place of employment.”

Thompson’s amendment also requires armed staffers to pass an annual standard permit background check. He said it would be up to the individual to pay for the permit, but schools have the option to cover those expenses.

HSB 675 would also require the Department of Public Safety to host an annual “live-scenario training” and quarterly live firearm training for school employees of educational institutions that opt-in to the program. 

Department officials previously noted how implementing these requirements may be challenging for them.

Thompson also answered questions from Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames) on who would arm staff and what type of firearms teachers and other staff would be armed with.

“We don’t prescribe that in the bill. It’s really up to the school district. They could provide that if they wanted to—they could also have a personally-owned firearm,” Thompson said.

Thompson said it would be up to school districts to determine how they want to arm staff and with what kind of firearms. Wessel-Kroeschell then asked where the guns would be during the school day.

“It would presumably be on the person—concealed on the person,” Thompson said.

He also said he expects staff members to keep the firearm on them until the end of the day unless the school has a place to securely store them.

The proposed amendment also changes the required school resource officer/private security component of the bill.

Previously, HSB 675 required Iowa’s 11 largest school districts to have armed security or school resource officers (SROs) in their high school buildings. Under this requirement, the state would create a grant program that would allow districts to recoup up to $50,000 to pay for those costs, but otherwise, no additional funding is provided.

Thompson said that under the amendment, school boards would now be allowed to opt out of this provision, some of which likely will.

A few years ago, the Des Moines Public School District removed SROs from buildings following a movement that was started by students— and backed up by district parents—who felt SROs unfairly targeted Black and Brown students. 

One of the issues even supporters of HSB 675 have had with the bill is that insurance companies want nothing to do with arming school staff, which is why two Iowa school districts dropped their armed staff policies last year.

Thompson thinks this bill should resolve that.

“We believe with the standards we set with the permit as well as the qualified immunity, that this will be something that’s insurable and not even just by the current insurer for most of our public schools,” he said.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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