State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Friday asked North Dakotans to please comment on proposed rules that will govern the state’s new Armed First Responder program. The law passed by the 2019 Legislature makes it possible for locally elected school boards to designate specially trained individuals to carry concealed guns in schools.

An armed first responder may not be a contracted teacher or any individual “directly responsible for the supervision of children” while performing AFR duties, Baesler said. The program is voluntary. No one can be assigned to be an Armed First Responder against his or her will.

“Many of our rural North Dakota schools asked the Legislature to approve the Armed First Responder option as a safeguard against the possibility of an outside attack,” Baesler said. “Local school leaders testified that these schools do not usually have law enforcement officers close at hand, and the AFR program could provide an isolated school building with a means of defense.”

Representatives from local schools and law enforcement, county leaders, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, and the Department of Public Instruction recently completed a final draft of the administrative rules, Baesler said Friday.

A public hearing on the draft rules is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in the Peace Garden Room at the North Dakota state Capitol. The proposed rules will also be reviewed by the attorney general and the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee.

The rules provide details for implementing HB1332, which allows a school board to designate an “armed first responder” in a specific school who may carry a concealed gun. The school must submit a detailed implementation plan and take part in an emergency assessment of threats and risks. Local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security must approve any implementation plan.

A responder must be trained as a law enforcement officer or be retired from law enforcement for no more than three years. The person must be at least 21 years old, complete a physical and a mental health examination, and be trained in crisis management and advanced first aid.

North Dakotans who are interested in the proposed rules may comment on them by attending the public hearing, or by calling or emailing Jim Upgren, assistant director for school approval and opportunity at NDDPI. Upgren’s email is jimupgrenatnd [dot] gov

. His telephone number is 701-328-2244.