At the first meeting in 2013 of the Clark County Republicans Central Committee, 17th LD State Representative Paul Harris was asked to give a spur-of-the-moment report on developments in Olympia. Among his comments was the rather surprising admission that he and “several legislators in his caucus” were not in support of HB 1788 , the bill initiated by Liz Pike and sponsored by such pro-Constitution stalwarts as Reps Matt Shea, Jason Overstreet, Elizabeth Scott, Cary Condotta and David Taylor, which would allow permanently-employed teachers to pay for their own training and certification in order to carry a concealed weapon onto school grounds.
The context of his comments was in relation to the resolution that was being considered by the Central Committee to oppose “any holder of public office and any candidate for public office who the Board finds has taken any action to infringe, impair or usurp our Natural and Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, regardless of their party affiliation.” Harris argued that his failure to support Pike’s bill could be considered grounds for such opposition by the CCRP, but that he actually had good reasons for not doing so. He stated that Pike’s bill could have unintended consequences, such as opening the door to teachers being forced to register firearms. He also expressed concern that teachers would have to pay large fees to be trained and certified by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission per the bill’s requirements. He doesn’t want teachers to have to pay large fees, which could reach $500 or more, according to Harris.
So in one fell swoop, Harris attempted to both justify his lack of support for Pike’s bill, and his opposition to the CCRP resolution, while still trying to keep his ‘conservative credentials’ intact. The only problem was that word has apparently reached Pike and other sponsors of the bill that he was undermining it before the PCOs. She is apparently meeting today with Board members and PCOs in Clark County to clarify the contents of the bill. In reading it (see link above) I find no requirement to register weapons at all, only a requirement for school personnel to be designated as potentially carrying after being trained to the Commission’s satisfaction. Harris used the ‘slippery slope’ argument here, but frankly, I don’t see where he is deriving the fear that it would be a precedent for gun control. I think it more likely that Harris, who hails from a swing district, is afraid to be on record voting for a controversial bill to arm teachers.
A hint at his real position can be found in this article in the Columbian from December, in which he is quoted:
State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said on Thursday that he would need to research Pike’s proposal before taking a stance on it. He said he could support more police in schools, if there was a way to pay for it, but arming teachers?
“I’d have to give that some serious, serious thought,” said Harris, a former Evergreen school board member. When it comes to preventing school shootings, Harris added that he’s yet to see a solution that addresses both sides of the issue.
I can’t imagine that he had never had a chance to ‘give serious thought’ to the issue before he was approached by the media. It is highly likely that he was among the first people that Pike consulted before publicly speaking on the subject. It seems clear that Harris is afraid to stand up for this application of the 2nd Amendment, and has instead chosen to cast doubt on the bill among the conservative base so that he is not alone when he opposes it. A calculated political move that one would expect from the invertebrates who currently lead the National Republican party.
This bill would add no cost to taxpayers. It would only take advantage of the fact that there are many citizens among our population, including teachers and administrators in schools, who have chosen to acquire training at their own expense in the proper use of firearms so that they can protect themselves and others in public. It even allows for the option of the school paying for the teacher’s certification expenses. It is a local, citizen-based solution rather than a big-government one. I applaud Representative Pike and her co-sponsors for taking a political risk in order to provide a safer environment for school kids.