Iowa Governor Signs Bill to Arm School Staff

Signed into law Friday, House File 2586 provides qualified immunity to school districts and employees from criminal or civil liability.

Iowa Governor Signs Bill to Arm School Staff

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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law Friday legislation that will allow trained school staff to carry guns on school grounds.

House File 2586 creates a new permitting process for Iowa K-12 public and private schools, community colleges, and public and private colleges and universities to arm trained staff. The measure provides qualified immunity to school districts and employees from criminal or civil liability for “damages incurred pursuant to the application of reasonable force.”

Approved staff would be allowed to carry concealed weapons during school hours, and it would be up to districts to decide what firearms staff could carry, Sioux City Journal reports. Districts must also determine if they would provide the firearms or allow the use of personal firearms.

The legislation comes in the wake of the Jan. 4 shooting at Perry High School. Killed in the shooting were 11-year-old student Ahmir Jolliff and Principal Dan Marburger. Six others were injured. The 17-year-old shooter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Supporters of the bill have said allowing schools to choose whether to allow armed staff on school grounds is the quickest way to respond to a school shooting. Opponents have said it will make students and staff less safe by increasing the likelihood of gun accidents in schools.

According to a 2023 report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in the last five years, there have been about 100 documented incidents of guns being mishandled, left in the reach of children, or accidentally discharged in schools. In March, Campus Safety reported that since December, there had been at least seven reports of an armed school security officer or law enforcement officer accidentally leaving their gun unattended in a school bathroom or other area on a K-12 campus.

What Training Will Iowa School Staff Need to Carry Guns on Campus?

Under House File 2586, to receive a professional permit to carry weapons, school employees would have to pass an annual background check and complete a firearms safety course. They would also have to:

  • Complete a one-time legal training on issues such as qualified immunity
  • Complete annual communication and emergency medical trainings
  • Complete quarterly live firearms training and annual “live scenario” training

The process would be approved by the Iowa Department of Public Safety. The identities of school staff issued a weapons permit would be confidential and not subject to disclosure under Iowa’s open records law.

Law to Require SROs in Large Iowa School Districts

House File 2586 will also require the state’s 11 largest school districts — consisting of over 8,000 students — to employ armed school resource officers (SROs) in their high schools, unless their school board votes to opt out.

School districts with less than 8,000 students would be encouraged to employ armed SROs.

Additional Iowa School Safety Bill Sent to Governor

Lawmakers also sent Reynolds a separate school security bill that includes new requirements for building safety standards and would allow schools to use professional development funds “for any trainings required as a condition for a school employee to carry a weapon at the school during school hours.”

School districts would also be required to conduct school safety reviews and share the findings with law enforcement. The bill would also create a task force to review school infrastructure safety and security standards and require schools to have emergency radios that can communicate with law enforcement.

Additionally, schools would be required to meet the building safety standards before they could issue bonds for new or renovated athletic facilities.

Iowans Largely Support Arming Teachers

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted in February found that 60% of Iowans favored allowing school staff to carry guns on campus after completing training. Thirty-eight percent opposed the policy and 1% were not sure. 

After the bill was passed by the Iowa legislature in March, Everytown for Gun Safety sent a petition to Reynolds asking her to veto the bill. The petition received over 1,000 signatures in a few days. Everytown says the bill has been opposed by teachers across the state.

According to a 2023 study of U.S. school teachers, 54% believe allowing K-12 campus faculty to carry firearms would make schools less safe.

Iowa law already allowed school employees to carry firearms, however, the two districts that adopted policies to arm staff rescinded them after their insurer said it would discontinue their coverage, according to the Des Moines Register.

More than 30 states allow teachers or other school staff to be armed in at least some circumstances, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “Iowa Governor Signs Bill to Arm School Staff”

  1. Roger Moore says:

    This is simply a time and math problem to solve. We have 30 years of data on active shooter incidents at schools. Here is what the data show.

    The attacker will get in and often plans the attack in detail.
    On average one person will be shot every 10 seconds until the attack ends
    Most attacks are over in five minutes or less.
    Most law enforcement response times are over 7 minutes.
    Without well trained, vetted, on scene immediate response capable people lives are going to be lost unnecessarily.

    See the article I wrote for Police 1 on this topic last year.

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