Brooke Proulx, a school social worker at Gorham Middle School, teaches an eighth-grade health class lesson in this February 2023 file photo. Credit: Esta Pratt-Kielley / Maine Public

Educators, students and gun control advocates are sounding the alarm over a slate of Republican-backed bills that would overturn Maine’s prohibition on firearms on public and private school property.

One of the proposals would allow school staff to carry a firearm on school grounds after undergoing training as well as authorization from a local school board, while another would allow districts to contract with private security firms or school resource officers to keep an armed presence on campuses.

Sponsors and supporters argued before the Legislature’s education committee that Maine schools are effectively “soft targets” because state law prohibits carrying or discharging a firearm within 500 feet of school property.

Rep. Reagan Paul of Winterport is sponsoring a bill that would have Maine join 28 other states that allow concealed handgun permit holders to carry their guns on school property.

“There’s risk in having guns, but there’s more risk in not having guns,” Paul said. “We are protected by armed police patrolling the capitol. I know I would feel less safe without them here. Why? Because they can meet threats with equal or greater force. Our children deserve the same.”

That assessment was challenged by school administrators, teachers and students who argued that the increased presence of guns will increase the likelihood of gun violence, whether intentional or accidental.

They cited examples of school shootings that took place despite the presence of armed school staff and mistakes made by trained school resource officers in other states.

The bills face long odds in the Democratic-controlled legislature, as do gun control measures, which rarely gain traction in Maine.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.