Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough said he is working on a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to receive firearms training through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, which would authorize them to carry weapons at school and at school events. Other states are proposing or considering similar measures.
However, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools, churches and day care centers, saying he seeks a more “thoughtful review” that includes school emergency policies and mental health-related issues.
In Texas, guns have an honored place in the state’s culture, and politicians often describe owning a gun as essential to being Texan. At the state Capitol, concealed handgun license holders are allowed to skip the metal detectors that scan visitors.
Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he would prefer to give gun owners the widest possible latitude. Just days after the Connecticut attack, Perry said permit holders should be able to carry concealed weapons in any public place.
Last year, many Texas lawmakers supported a plan to give college students and professors with concealed handgun licenses the right to carry guns on campus, but the measure failed.
Opponents insist that having more people armed at a school, especially teachers or administrators who aren’t trained to deal with crime on a daily basis, could lead to more injuries and deaths. They point to an August shooting outside the Empire State Building, where police killed a laid-off clothing designer after he fatally shot his former colleague. Nine bystanders were wounded by police gunfire, ricochets and fragments.
“You are going to put teachers, people teaching 6-year-olds in a school, and expect them to respond to an active-shooter situation?” said Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who called the idea of arming teachers “madness.”
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said she would not have felt better if teachers at her children’s Seattle school had been armed during a May shooting at a nearby cafe. A gunman killed four people at the cafe and another woman during a carjacking before killing himself. The school went on lockdown as a precaution.
“It would be highly concerning to me to know that guns were around my kids each and every day. … Increasing our arms is not the answer,” said Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising.org.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said focusing on arming teachers distracts from the “real things” that could help prevent a school shooting “and at worse it furthers a dangerous conversation that only talks about guns as protection without a discussion about the serious risks they present.”
As the debate continues, Harrold’s school plans to leave its policy unchanged.
“Nothing is 100 percent at all. … But hope makes for a terrible plan, hoping that (a tragedy) won’t happen,” Thweatt said. “My question is: What have you done about it? How have you planned?”
Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston and Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.
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