The bill ultimately passed on a 53-38 vote, but the highlight of the debate came from Rep. Dwight Kiefert himself.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”Before you vote no I ask you to take maybe one of these kids and help teach them a zigzag pattern to increase their chances or survival,” he added, referring to a classroom of kids visiting the House chamber today.[/mks_pullquote]
More on that in a moment.
Rep. Chris Olson (R-West Fargo) carried the bill out of the House Education Committee, which had given it a 7-6 “do pass” recommendation. Olson noted that the law is permissive – it allows school districts this option, but it doesn’t mandate anything – and that other states have even less restrictive laws concerning concealed carry in schools. He noted, as one example, that Utah allows all concealed carry holders to bring weapons on all public property.
But the main thrust of support for the bill came from Kiefert, and it was…aggressive.
Referencing testimony against the bill by North Dakota School Board Association President Jon Martinson (who called the bill “a really poor idea”), Kiefert suggested that schools don’t want to assume responsibility for the safety of students. “He wants to sit comfortably at the funeral and blame the legislature for not giving them the right to choose,” he said.
Ouch. And it went downhill from there.
“I wasn’t going to comment on the kids here but can we look at them and say that if their school didn’t have enough money they’re not allowed to have protection?” Kiefert asked. His point being that many rural school districts don’t have the funds to hire school resource officers for security.
“Before you vote no I ask you to take maybe one of these kids and help teach them a zigzag pattern to increase their chances or survival,” he added, referring to a classroom of kids visiting the House chamber today.
“That might have cost Kiefert a couple of votes,” an observer in the chamber texted me about the speech. Maybe that was the case. In 2013 a similar bill introduced by Kiefert passed on a 60-33 vote.
Rep. Bill Amerman (D-Forman) raised an objection to a portion of the legislation which gives schools immunity from liability. “This concerns me a lot,” he said of the provision. “I’m not comfortable granting immunity.”
In response, Rep. Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo) rose to say that one of the concerns with this legislation last session was that schools didn’t want to be held liable for armed school employees. He said the provision only seeks to hold schools harmless for trying to fight off an attacker.