SACRAMENTO — As the conversation around mass shootings is shifting toward prevention, a California bill aims to impose fees on all gun and ammo purchases, and use the revenue to put more armed officers and counselors inside schools statewide.
“To be honest thoughts and prayers are great but I get tired of hearing that. Let’s do something about it. Let’s change it,” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, who’s sponsoring the measure.
“If we can prevent a shooting or prevent some kid from doing something tragic, that’s important. It’s well worth the cost,” said Cooper. He believes trained officers are better equipped to stop a mass tragedy than armed teachers.
Many school officers themselves agree.
“Sure, because the resource officer has the primary responsibility of safety. The teachers got divided responsibility,” said Sgt. Chris Taylor, who heads all Sacramento City Unified School District’s resource officers.
Taylor came short of taking a position on the bill and didn’t entirely disavow the idea of arming some teachers in a few, select districts. However, Taylor says counselors and school officers can often reach troubled kids emotionally before they become violent.
“Those kids develop a relationship with the officer and when they’re being victimized they’ll report crimes,” said Taylor.
There are 1,024 school districts within the state, according to the California Department of Education. CDE does not keep track of how many districts utilize school resource officers within school campuses, however, Cooper says there are districts that have neither counselors nor resource officers.
“The idea of more armed officers in schools in and of itself is not a bad one. The question we’re talking about here is, who’s supposed to be paying for it,” said Craig DeLuz, a gun rights activist with The Firearms Policy Coalition.
Deluz says by charging gun buyers a fee, the state is essentially punishing legal gun owners. He argues the fee is actually a tax because those on whom it would be imposed wouldn’t necessarily see a benefit from it.
“We’re making it more challenging to buy firearms. We’re doing everything possible to make it such that law-abiding citizens are being punished,” said DeLuz.
DeLuz argues the training law enforcement officers receive with firearms isn’t sufficient enough to qualify them as firearms experts. He cited the armed deputy who failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida while a gunman killed 17 people in February.
“That is an example of why many of us have decided not to leave defense of ourselves up to someone else,” said DeLuz.
Cooper’s bill was introduced Tuesday as an amended version of a previous bill, which qualified it to be introduced after the legislative deadline to bring about new legislation. Cooper did not clarify how much the fee would be, or how much revenue he hoped the state might collect.