For the second year in a row, and one day after a deadly shooting at a Kentucky high school, Maine lawmakers will consider a bill that would allow people picking up or dropping off students at schools to have unloaded guns in the car.

A public hearing on the bill will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

Federal law largely prohibits guns on K-12 campuses, but there are exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to people licensed by the state to possess a gun, such as those with concealed carry permits. It also allows for guns that are unloaded or in a locked container or rack.

The proposed bill, L.D. 1761, would allow guns to be inside a car if the person possessing the gun is dropping off or picking up a student and remains in the vehicle. The gun must also be unloaded and in a locked container or rack.

A similar bill was rejected last year. That bill would have allowed guns in cars at child pickup or drop-off areas at K-12 schools. Even after supporters offered an amendment to require that firearms be unloaded and in a locked box or gun rack, it failed 9-4 in committee.

At the time, Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, said: “I just don’t like the idea of guns being on a school campus, period. I understand it’s an inconvenience in some places or in certain seasons. But the idea of someone coming onto the grounds with a gun makes me terribly nervous.”

The proposal comes amid a vigorous national debate over gun laws, prompted in part by school shootings that have been used by both sides of the debate to further their arguments. From 2013 to 2016, there were reports of 160 guns being discharged inside a school building or on the grounds of a K-12 school or college campus. The incidents resulted in 59 deaths and 124 gunshot wounds, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun violence group.

Advocates for relaxing gun bans on campus argue that if there were a shooting at a school, armed parents or others could respond. In Maine, they say, it would allow parents or caretakers who hunt to pick up children while carrying their firearms in the car. Educators, on the other hand, argue that the presence of firearms near schools could allow conflicts to escalate into armed confrontations.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, only New Hampshire has a state law allowing guns on K-12 campuses, while Hawaii and Wyoming don’t have laws expressly banning guns on campus. Five other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon, Rhode Island and Utah) allow concealed carry permit holders to carry guns on K-12 campuses.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition issued a news release Tuesday hours after the Kentucky shooting urging Maine lawmakers to oppose L.D. 1761.

Tuesday’s shooting reportedly involved a 15-year-old student who opened fire with a handgun inside the rural Kentucky school, killing two classmates and injuring 19.

“How many more school shootings must we endure before we realize that guns and schools just don’t mix?” coalition Executive Director Nick Wilson said in a statement. The group said it had submitted a petition with hundreds of signatures asking lawmakers to reject the bill, sponsored by Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake. Martin did not return calls for comment Monday.

Local school policies prohibiting guns on campus can be so strict that last year Bonny Eagle High School in Standish refused to publish a yearbook photo showing a student holding a shotgun.

The principal said the school’s code of conduct prohibiting students from bringing weapons of any kind to school, or wearing clothes with images of guns or weapons, extended to photos in the yearbook or other publications.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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