No school safety bills in waning hours of the legislature
(KUTV)- The clock is ticking on the Utah Legislature, and when lawmakers adjourn Thursday at midnight, they may do it with little legislation to bolster safety at hundreds of Utah schools in the wake of the Florida shooting.
"What has the Utah Legislature done, if anything, about school safety?" 2News asked Rep. Steve Handy, R-Davis County.
"Hardly anything," he replied.
Handy's bill to temporarily take guns away from people who courts determine are a danger, died in committee this week.
The House did set up a commission to study school safety, and it could make recommendations before the next legislative session, but questions remain on how active the Senate will be in supporting panel ideas, and who gets a seat at the table.
"We are not on the task force," Tom Ross, Bountiful police chief, and the president of the Utah Police Chiefs Association said. "We would like to be."
He noted sheriffs also are not represented, and that police department and sheriffs' offices supply school resource officers.
The Utah Department of Public Safety said DPS Commissioner Keith Squires is now trying to get a resource officer on the newly-formed commission.
Chief Ross said he understands the frustration when violence, like the massacre in Florida, happens.
"I think people believe, well, the police were called," he said. "'They should have known. Why didn't they take the guns away?'"
The chief maintained state laws have made it harder, not easier, to do that.
Rep. Handy said, among his colleagues, he does not sense the urgency to act after Florida.
The State Office of Education hasn't taken a position on the school safety commission, though Superintendent of Public Instruction Syndee Dickson said the Board of Education will delve into the issue.
The Utah PTA seemed satisfied with the establishment of the commission.
Connor Boyack, the founder of the liberty-promoting Libertas Institute, said lawmakers are right not to rush their Florida response.
"It's an unreasonable demand to tackle a very complicated issue in two weeks," said Boyack. "We don't need to do something just for the sake of doing something, but we should have a serious discussion about what are any gaps, or any shortcomings that we can plug."
There have been Capitol rumblings of legislators moving to spend state money---in a year when the budget surplus may top $500 million---toward fortifying schools to make them more secure. For now, that does not appear of have occurred.
"People want to put these things off and think, 'Oh that can't happen here,'" said Rep. Handy, of the Florida shooting. "Oh really? That can happen here."