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Texas House advances bill that would require armed personnel on school campuses

Bill Zeeble

The legislation is a GOP priority following the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde. But some Texas Democrats oppose the measure, arguing more guns in schools isn’t a logical solution.

The Texas House of Representatives tentatively passed a school safety bill on Monday that would require school districts to have an armed officer on each campus.

House Bill 3 by state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, would allow a district’s board of trustees to determine the actual number of armed officers for each school, but at least one would need to be present during school hours. The proposal would also task the Texas Education Agency with ensuring compliance with the provisions in the legislation, including performing onsite audits that could be conducted at random.

Burrows, who chaired the special committee that investigated the 2022 Uvalde shooting where 19 students and two teachers were killed, explained the legislation should be considered separately from the debate over law enforcement’s botched reaction to the shooting.

“The Uvalde school shooting stole precious children and teachers from their families and made it clear that the state of Texas must make fundamental changes in the way we protect our school communities,” said Burrows while laying out the proposal to the House. “Setting aside the ongoing discussion of the real time response from law enforcement, it is clear that we must not only beef up on-campus security staffing, but also establish statewide standards for the security measures campuses must deploy.”

Were HB 3 to become law, a district could be found in noncompliance if it didn’t submit to the monitoring or didn’t address concerns raised by the TEA in “a reasonable time” according to the bill’s analysis. A student who attends a school in a non-compliant district could receive a grant to attend school elsewhere, and any superintendent or other administrator fired because of district noncompliance wouldn’t be eligible for severance pay.

The bill has some bipartisan support. State Reps. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Tracy King, D-Batesville, signed on as joint authors.

The legislation was included on the list of Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan’s priority bills released earlier this session. But some Democrats opposed the measure on the grounds that having more guns in schools would be counterproductive to the purported goals of the legislation.

According to the language of the bill, an armed officer would be required to be “a school district peace officer, school resource officer, a commissioned peace officer employed as security personnel, a school marshal, or a district employee.” But the officer could also be someone who “had completed school safety training provided by a qualified handgun instructor certified in school safety; and carried a handgun on the employee’s person while on school premises.”

State Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, D-Richardson, said the “district employee” language opens that up to teachers.

“We don’t want those guns in our classrooms. Teachers themselves do not want to be armed, we know that,” she said, citing a poll by the Texas American Federation of Teachers poll that found 77% of those asked opposed arming teachers. “We should be taking into consideration how our teachers, parents and students feel about staff being armed before mandating this across the state.”

Ramos tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to exclude teachers, but Burrows opposed the modification, saying it creates a “false narrative” that the legislation forces teachers to be armed.

Later in Monday’s debate, state Rep. Vicki Goodwin, D-Austin, offered an amendment that would have required trigger locks on weapons brought onto campuses under Burrows’ legislation. She cited several examples of why she felt the added safety precaution is needed, including a 2019 incident in Bowie County where a Pleasant Grove ISD employee’s loaded gun was left on a school bus and found by a student.

Goodwin also referenced the 2017 death by suicide of a Kerbyville High School principal in a school parking lot. The principal, Dennis Reeves, reportedly shot himself after resigning from his position.

“This (amendment) is one small thing that we can do to make sure that, if a gun is left unattended, (and) found by a student, it can’t be shot by that student,” she said.

Burrows said that decision could be left up to individual school districts and opposed the amendment, which also failed.

“I have absolutely no problem with trigger locks however I don’t know their availability,” he said, calling the amendment “absolutely unnecessary.”

The legislation ultimately passed 122-19 and faces one more procedural vote before it is eligible for consideration by the Texas Senate.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.