A new sign could be headed to Utah schools: ‘This is not a gun free zone’

By: Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch

A provision in a new bill seeking to provide “tactical training for teachers” could bring a new sign hanging outside Utah’s public schools: “This is not a gun free zone. Anyone who wishes to do harm will likely be met with armed resistance.”

HB119’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Jimenez, R-Tooele, compared it to signs “reminding students that this is a tobacco free or a vape free school zone.”

Jimenez spoke Thursday during a House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee meeting, where the bill received a favorable recommendation after a 5-3 vote, all three “no” votes coming from Democrats.

The bill is designed to give teachers who already carry concealed firearms in the school tactical training — it would reimburse them for both training expenses and up to $500 for a biometric gun safe for teachers who can’t carry a firearm “due to their clothing choice.”

A local sheriff or police department would provide the training, which Jimenez said would take between four and 25 hours to complete. After that initial year, the teacher could take additional training if they wish, which could be administered through a private training program, not a police officer.

“Since teachers can already carry firearms, and many are, why not provide them with the skills and education they need to protect our children?” Jimenez told the committee.

The bill would also provide indemnification for teachers, shielding them from civil liability if they do use the firearm, “as long as they are acting in good faith and without gross negligence,” he said.

“If a prosecuting attorney says this teacher was acting in a way that didn’t seem to be in good faith, we wish to bring a case against them, there you go,” Jimenez said, comparing it to good Samaritan law, which gives legal protection to civilians who help victims during accidents or emergencies.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, took issue with that comparison, telling Jimenez “this language doesn’t mesh with our current language on shootings.”

Jimenez stressed HB119 is a defensive bill — it’s not meant to incentivize teachers “running around the hallways acting like police officers.” Instead, the armed teachers would be trained to defend their classroom, gym, or wherever they are in the event of an active shooter situation.

The bill would require $2.3 million in initial funding, with about $635,000 annually, coming from the state’s General Fund. According to Neca Allgood with the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, those are “funds that are intended to educate students.” Allgood spoke against the bill.

Brian Peterson, a sixth grade teacher, spoke in favor of the bill during the meeting, telling lawmakers “the training is invaluable.”

“Knowing how to defend your classroom, whether it’s with a weapon or an improvised weapon, is what teachers need. We need a way to protect our kids and protect ourselves,” he said.

The bill will be considered on the House floor after receiving a green light from the committee. But with only a week left in the legislative session, it’s unclear if the Senate will take it up.

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