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'First Line of Defense': How California Plans to Reach Troubled Students Before They Crack

03-26-2018

If you call California home, would you pay an extra tax on guns and ammo to fund school counseling and hire armed guards at schools?

That's what California lawmakers are betting on.

State Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) introduced measure AB 2497 last month.

The proposed bill would fund counselors at all middle schools and school resource officers at all high school campuses from gun and ammo sales.

"Because of budget cuts, a lot of schools don't have counselors," said Cooper, referencing the need to spot youth with issues that could escalate to violence. "This is a way to fund counselors and really identify these kids."

Cooper says he hasn't determined the tax rate in his proposal, but guns are already subject to a number of fees and taxes in the state. 

At the federal level, gun makers pay an 11 percent excise tax on guns and ammo to fund Pittman-Robertson Act requirements that go to pay for conservation programs.

Cooper told a KCRA news reporter, you must recognize the needs students have early.

"A lot of these kids have trouble, especially in the middle and high school years. We really want to target them. Because of budget cuts, a lot of schools don't have counselors," said Cooper.

Another California lawmaker believes more guns will help keep students safe.

California Assemblyman Jim Gallagher (R-Yuba City) has introduced a bill that would arm school guards.

Gallagher says because of the state law that bans anyone, including teachers, from conceal-carrying firearms, it, unfortunately, makes students a target.

"Why not have these individuals at every school in the state to ensure that there will be someone there to stop shooting incidents?" Gallagher asked. "We need to have a first line of defense."

As for the cost, which has not been calculated, Gallagher said, "I don't think you can put a price on it when it comes to peace of mind when it comes to our kids."

The American Civil Liberties Union of California and the California Teachers Association opposed the bill, AB 2067. 

Kathy Sher of the ACLU said armed guards on campuses will make students feel like they are in detention centers, not places of learning.

"Putting guns in schools in the hands of security guards or school resource officers will make schools less safe, not safer," Sher told a local California newspaper.

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