A retired U.S. marshal turned state legislator has drafted a bill designed to push Pennsylvania school districts toward hiring retired police officers to serve as armed guards in every public school.
State Rep. Mike Regan, R-York and Cumberland counties, introduced HB 896 last week.
The legislation seeks to enhance a school's security with a first line of defense, Regan said.
Regan, a father of four children who spent 23 years with the U.S. Marshals Service, said hed been pondering a need for enhanced school safety for a while. Then, the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school happened in December.
"I felt like I had something to bring to the conversation," Regan said.
Government buildings and courthouses are heavily secured, "and yet we have kids our behind a buzzer and a glass door."
That's why, Regan said, hes proposed to task retired police officers with screening visitors for weapons and detecting threats inside schools.
"This is more along the lines of, let's prevent someone who wants to come into the school and do something bad to our teachers or students from ever getting into the school," Regan said.
The legislation specifically mentions retired police officers as an ideal security force. That's because law-enforcement officers often retire young. They're already trained, and many remain capable of providing security, Regan said.
Also, he said, retired officers already have a pension and health benefits. That means schools could hire former officers and pay them an hourly wage as sub-contractors, Regan said.
"The thing is, we want people who are trained specifically on how to handle a threat," he said. "These guys bring to the table a career of experience."
The legislation gives schools an opt-out choice, but schools would have to justify their reasoning, Regan said.
As for funding, that is "yet to be determined."
One potential funding source, Regan said, is Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to privatize the state's liquor-store system and divert some of the revenue to education.
Regan said he realizes that are some people within the Legislature and the public who will never get behind a proposal that puts guns in schools. But violence is a real -- not just perceived threat in schools, he said.
"I think it's time that we have to really step it up and provide some protection for our kids," he said.
Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.