The debate continues over whether teachers and other school personnel should have access to guns in an emergency, but the nation’s two biggest teachers unions warned Thursday that would be a disastrous idea that sends the wrong message to children.
“Some are actually proposing bringing more guns in, turning our educators into objects of fear and increasing the danger in our schools. Guns have no place in our schools. Period,” reads a rare joint statement from the presidents of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers.
In their letter, Dennis Van Roekel of the NEA and Randi Weingarten of the AFT called the idea of arming teachers “astounding and disturbing,” saying it runs counter to educators’ vow to provide safe and secure public schools.
In the days following the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., several high-profile political figures — including Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican — have suggested that instructors or principals be given firearms. They would kept in secure locations and available only to school leaders, who would use them in the event a gunman enters the building or in the case of some other extreme threat to students.
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett has also voiced support for the idea.
“Suppose the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed lunging at the gunman was instead holding a firearm and was well trained to use it. Would the result have been different? Or suppose you had been in that school when the killer entered, would you have preferred to be armed?” Mr. Bennett wrote in a recent column for CNN.com. “Evidence and common sense suggest yes.”
While the notion has gained some traction, the majority of focus in the wake of Sandy Hook remains on gun control and wider availability of mental health care for those who need it, such as Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza.
“Greater access to mental health services, bullying prevention and meaningful action on gun control — this is where we need to focus our efforts, not on staggeringly misguided ideas about filling our schools with firearms,” Mr. Van Roekel and Ms. Weingarten said. “Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea.”
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Ben Wolfgang is a national reporter for The Washington Times. Before coming to the Times, he spent four years as a political reporter in Pennsylvania. His focus is on education and science policy. Ben lives in southeast D.C. and has played guitar in several bands while still in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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