What you need to know about Iowa’s bill to arm school staff

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By Ty Rushing

April 16, 2024

Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to sign a new law that will allow Iowa schools to arm staff and grant them legal and civil immunity in the event of a shooting.

The bill—HF 2586—is part of Iowa Republican lawmakers’ direct response to the Jan. 4 school shooting in Perry and has already passed both Iowa legislative chambers. Here are answers to a few common questions Starting Line has been asked about the legislation:

What Iowa schools does this bill apply to?: Public school districts, private schools, and colleges, so all schools and educational institutions essentially.

Who can be armed?: Any employee of a school district, private school, or college that has opted into the policy.

Can we find out who is armed?: No. The original version of the bill would have made the identities of armed staff members publicly accessible, but a lobbyist for the NRA recommended that lawmakers remove that provision, which they did.

@iowastartingline An NRA lobbyist chimed in with concerns at a subcommittee meeting for Iowa Republicans’ teacher armament bill, worrying that professional requirements for armed teachers would affect concealed carry laws on school grounds and that armed teachers’ identities would be available via public records requests. Republican lawmakers would later amend the bill to honor his request. #iowa #iowanews #iowalife ♬ original sound – Iowa Starting Line

Is this policy a requirement?: No, participation is considered optional.

Are there actually school districts that want this policy?: Representatives of the Cherokee, Interstate 35, and Spirit Lake school districts have been vocal supporters of this legislation, and one Republican lawmaker said during a debate that as many as 19 out of Iowa’s more than 300 school districts support the proposal.

What are the qualifications to become an armed staff member?: Armed staffers must undergo a firearms safety training course and 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.

What about background checks or psych evaluations?: There are no such requirements in the bill.

Who is paying for the guns and staff training?: There is a separate bill under consideration in the Iowa Legislature to provide school districts a grant for up to $25,000 to help pay for guns and staff training.

So who will own the guns?: According to Rep. Phil Thompson (R-Boone), it’s up to schools to decide if they will provide guns or if armed staff members will be allowed to use a personal firearm.

@iowastartingline Iowa Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames) asked several clarifying questions about the standard operating procedures for arming teachers, to which Rep. Phil Thompson (R-Boone) said those decisions would be left to the school board. He also said arming teachers would make insurance companies interested in “competing in the Iowa market.” #iowa #iowanews #iowalife ♬ original sound – Iowa Starting Line

What types of guns will be allowed?: There are no firearm restrictions in the bill, but Thompson said schools can decide what guns should be used.

Are the guns required to be locked up?: No. While not required, Republican lawmakers expect armed staff members to conceal their firearms and carry them on their person.

Are there any consequences or repercussions if an armed staff member shoots someone?: 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.” That provision allows armed staff members legal protection if they were to accidentally shoot and/or kill a student or teacher, or intentionally harm a would-be-school shooter.

Will this solve the insurance issue?: Background: Iowa schools can already arm staff, but these policies have failed to be implemented long-term because insurance companies don’t want to cover schools with armed staff. Republican lawmakers hope that by granting armed school staff qualified immunity, insurers will be willing to keep covering those schools.

Here’s what EMC, one of Iowa’s largest school insurance providers, told Starting Line when asked about this: “We share a deep commitment to the health and safety of students and school personnel and respect every school’s right to choose the policies they believe to be in their best interests. We believe this legislation could attract more insurance carriers to Iowa along with potentially more options for schools to find coverage that fits their needs. This would be a positive outcome for all. EMC will continue to insure schools that provide on-site armed security utilizing trained law enforcement or school resource officers (consistent with our policy in all states). We will also continue to explore other options in light of changing marketplace conditions.

Story updated with comments from EMC and a link to the firearms training requirements.

  • 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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