LINCOLN — An unarmed security employee was only a few feet away at Millard South High School when a disgruntled student walked into the school office, calmly signed in to see a vice principal, and then shot and killed her.
Giving that security guard a gun would not have prevented the fatal shooting, the head of the Millard School Board said Tuesday.
A state senator, though, says that allowing security personnel, teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons might prevent such school shootings from escalating to multiple victims.
Vice Principal Vicki Kaspar was killed in the Jan. 5 shooting at Millard South, and Principal Curtis Case was shot and wounded when he came to her aid. The assailant, 17-year-old Robert Butler Jr., fled the scene and later shot and killed himself.
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, the father of the Nebraska’s concealed carry law, said shootings like the one at Millard South require a debate about whether the state should repeal its ban on allowing concealed guns — except those carried by police — on school campuses.
“I don’t know if people are ready for this. But I think it’s good to get the dialogue going,” the senator said.
On Tuesday he introduced Legislative Bill 516. It would allow public and private schools and colleges, by a two-thirds vote of their governing board, to permit teachers, administrators or security staff to carry concealed weapons on school grounds if they have obtained a state concealed carry permit.
The state’s 4-year-old concealed carry law has exemptions that allow church ushers and bank security officers with state permits to carry concealed weapons, but it makes schools “gun-free,” except for on-duty police or deputies assigned to that school.
Millard South had such an armed police officer on duty Jan. 5, but the officer was in another part of the school. Christensen said some schools do not allow such armed officers on their campuses.
A handful of school officials said Tuesday that arming teachers and other school personnel was a bad idea. A representative of the National Rifle Association said, however, that “gun-free” zones have not prevented shootings like those at Millard South and Omaha’s Westroads Mall.
The Millard district is reviewing its security procedures in the wake of the fatal shooting. But school board president Dave Anderson said he doesn’t think an armed guard at the school’s entrance would have made a difference.
The assailant, he noted, calmly walked into the school office without showing a gun or attracting alarm.
“My personal opinion is I don’t want to see guns in our schools,” Anderson said. “As I sit here today, prior to our (security) review, that doesn’t seem to be an answer.”
Sandy Jensen, president of the Omaha School Board, said she hasn’t heard anyone advocate allowing more guns in OPS schools. Currently, only police officers assigned to OPS high schools and middle schools can carry guns.
The state teachers union has a “zero tolerance” policy for guns on school campuses, said Karen Kilgarin of the Nebraska State Education Association.
Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, who heads the legislative committee that will review the school-gun proposal, said he would be “very cautious” about such an idea.
“The proponents of the bill would have a heavy burden to show that we have to arm school personnel,” Ashford said. “But I understand the motivation.”
He said bigger issues are how easily children and those with mental illnesses can get guns. Butler used a police service weapon of his father, an Omaha police detective. Mental health is expected to be a key defense issue in the case of a man charged with shooting and killing six people at a recent political event in Arizona.
Ashford said the Judiciary Committee will likely conduct an interim study on the access issues. Christensen on Tuesday introduced LB 512, which addresses mental health and access to guns.
Christensen said he introduced his school gun bill at the suggestion of a Lincoln man.
He pointed out that a customer at an Omaha Walgreen’s store was able to head off a potentially fatal shooting last year when he pulled out his concealed handgun and shot and killed a would-be armed robber.
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