Texas lawmakers are pushing for legislation they believe will make children safer in schools. Normally lawmakers would be off on Saturday, but House members spent the day looking at several different bills dealing with guns in schools.
One proposal would include armed guards called school marshals who would patrol public schools. Lawmakers started focusing more on school safety following last year's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut
"It's the wrong response to what occurred in Newtown, to what occurred in Aurora, to what occurred at the University of Virginia. It's the wrong response," said Democratic State Rep. Garnet Coleman.
Coleman says lawmakers went too far Saturday voting to approve House Bill 1009 – the Protection of Children Act. It would allow Texas public schools to designate one employee from each school to have a concealed handgun on campus.
"The right response is to make sure that we have law enforcement and that they're the people who have guns. They're the one who have been trained to safely deal with a situation," said Coleman.
Dallas lawmaker, Republican State Rep. Jason Villalba, the bill's author, says the legislation creates a new subset of law enforcement officers. School marshals would serve as the last line of defense should an armed attacker threaten the lives of children in public schools.
"We spent a great deal of time working with a number of stakeholders to make sure we got this right," says Villalba. "Texas is taking a tremendous step forward in protecting our kids. I have a young child in a public school so I know how important this is. What we did today was mirror the federal air marshal program into schools."
The proposed marshal program will be optional for school districts. Melanie Kriewaldt-Roth of Liberty Hill, north of Austin, is hoping there's a marshal in her child's school.
"My kids went to school the morning the 26 little children and adults died in a school last December. Of course it makes me safer to know that there's a trained person, a level-headed, well-trained school employee that has a license to carry a gun," said Kriewaldt-Roth.
She's been following the debate over marshals since it began in January.
"The way the bill was outlined, it's very well-constructed. This is not just, you know, a CHL holder bringing his gun to school that day. It is someone who's been well trained," said Kriewaldt-Roth.
Villalba says the designated marshal will go through extensive training before bringing a firearm into the classroom.
"These individuals who are serving as school marshals have been trained over 80 hours much like police men."
HB 1009 gets its final reading on Monday.