BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana students would be able to carry bulletproof backpacks, if House lawmakers support a proposal that easily passed the state Senate on Monday.
Republican Sen. Mike Walsworth, of West Monroe, lamented that he was pushing the legislation, saying he “never thought in my remote dreams or nightmares that we would have to have this.”
But he said the February shooting at a Florida high school where 17 people were killed prompted the measure .
Louisiana law currently bans wearing or possessing body armor on school property.
Walsworth said the backpacks, which he said cost between $100 and $200, could offer some protection to students if a shooter is on campus.
Senators voted 34-2 for the proposal, sending it to the House for consideration.
Democratic Sen. J.P. Morrell, of New Orleans, opposed the bill. He said Walsworth was “very well-intentioned,” but the measure would give parents a “false sense of security.”
While the backpack could stop a bullet, Morrell said the force in a shooting could cause severe injuries. He said he spoke with his two brothers, who are police officers, and they described how the impact of a bullet on Kevlar vests has broken bones and created other physical damage.
“It’s not a Captain America shield,” Morrell said. “I don’t want to mislead parents in thinking this actually solves the problem.”
Walsworth replied: “If it saves one child, that’s all that I care about. I’m hoping that this backpack never needs to be used.”
Louisiana lawmakers have introduced several bills in response to the Florida school shooting. Several Republican legislators proposed to allow concealed handguns at schools and the arming of teachers or other school officials. Democrats, meanwhile, proposed bans on assault weapons and other gun restrictions.
The bulletproof backpack bill has gained the most traction of the proposals so far. Measures to allow Louisiana teachers to carry guns at schools or to let armed civilians act as school security guards have failed to win support.
Senate Bill 178: www.legis.la.gov
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