Utah lawmakers want more guns in classrooms. Here’s what they’re doing to make it happen.

The Educator-Protector Program would encourage teachers to “responsibly secure or carry a firearm on school grounds.”

(Rick Bowmer | AP Photo) Cindy Bullock, a secretary at Timpanogos Academy, participates in shooting drills at the Utah County Sheriff's Office shooting range during a training on June 29, 2019. The newly proposed The Educator-Protector Program would encourage teachers to “responsibly secure or carry a firearm on school grounds.”

A Utah lawmaker wants to incentivize more teachers to carry guns at school by offering them a $500 reimbursement to install “biometric” gun safes in their classrooms.

Rep. Tim Jimenez, R-Tooele, introduced HB0119, which would establish the Educator-Protector Program to encourage teachers to “responsibly secure or carry a firearm on school grounds.” The bill would also offer some liability protections to participating teachers.

Utah law allows individuals to carry concealed firearms into public schools so long as they have a concealed firearm permit. Last year, lawmakers waived concealed carry permit fees for school employees as another incentive measure.

Jimenez said he is still working out the mechanics of the bill, but currently, it would require participating teachers to undergo two annual trainings in “classroom response” and firearms.

Classroom response training, the bill states, would be held by local law enforcement, covering school-specific emergency procedures, safe firearm handling and live-action practice for responding to threats.

Participating teachers would also need to undergo four hours of annual firearms training and maintain a valid concealed carry permit, according to the bill.

The State Board of Education would reimburse schools $500 for each participating teacher to install biometric gun safes in their classrooms, incurring an estimated total of $1.6 million in one-time costs, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Unlike traditional safes that require a combination, key or electronic code, biometric safes use unique physical or behavioral characteristics to verify the user’s identity, such as their fingerprints. The bill does not specify whether there would be requirements about where teachers could purchase the safes.

The bill also shields participating teachers and schools from “civil damages or penalties” if they act in “good faith” or are not “grossly negligent.” Schools would be required to display signs indicating that the premises are “not a gun-free zone.” The signs would also advise that “an individual intending to commit violence on the school’s grounds may be confronted by armed resistance.”

The proposal is currently silent on what types of guns may be permitted in school or under what scenarios teachers would be protected from liability. For instance, if a student were to access a teacher’s gun and commit a crime, the bill does not specify whether teachers would be immune from individual lawsuits filed by the families of potential victims.

Jimenez said the bill is being modified to “address concerns” and is not finalized.

“I will continue to work to get the language right,” he said.