News Column

Gun Debate: Should US Teachers Carry Weapons?

Dec 20, 2012

Emoke Bebiak

The debate over gun control in the U.S. veered Wednesday into the question of whether teachers should carry weapons in the classroom to prevent another slaughter of innocent children like that in Connecticut last week.

In fact, there's already one school in Texas where teachers have packed guns since 2008, when the town of Harrold opted to authorize individuals to carry concealed weapons on school property.

School Superintendent David Thweatt was the driving force behind the plan to train and arm teachers and administrators in the school district that has one school housing just over 100 students, The New York Times reported.

"Our people just don't want their children to be fish in a bowl," Thweatt said in 2008. "Country people are take-care-of-yourself people. They are not under the illusion that the police are there to protect them."

While most schools around the US are gun-free zones under current laws, Texas law allows for school districts to opt to allow firearms.

In Utah, under state law, it's even easier to carry a concealed weapon to school property: it is legal for anyone with a permit.

Former Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry has been the highest profile politician so far to suggest arming teachers as a viable measure to reduce violence.

Perry said Monday that he supports allowing individual school districts to make decisions on how to best protect their students, Dallas ABC-affiliate WFAA reported.

"We have to do everything we can to make sure those types of evils are restricted the best they can be," Perry said, talking about the Connecticut school slaughter that claimed the lives of 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six adults.

"In the state of Texas, if you go through the process, have been trained, and you are a handgun-licensed individual, you should be able to carry a gun anywhere in the state," Perry said, advocating similar rules for schools nationwide.

Perry openly supported the Harrold school district's decision, which came in response to the Virginia Tech shootings that killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in April 2007.

In the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting, Thweatt told CBS News that some people find arming teachers "horrific," but so was the Connecticut massacre.

He said some parents send their children to his school specifically because they know that they would be protected there.

"These people that go in and do these horrible acts, they're evil." Thweatt said. "But they're not that crazy - they always know where they are going to get resistance."

However, in the liberal state of Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley objected to the idea, saying there are "too many guns" already. In fact, he was considering proposing a statewide ban on assault weapons, the Washington Post reported.

"You look at some of these guns, and it's just hard to conclude that these guns should be in the hands of anyone who isn't a soldier on a battlefield or a law enforcement officer sent into a tactical situation," O'Malley said.

However, Republican Governor Robert F. McDonnell in neighboring Virginia would approve teachers carrying guns, he said Tuesday.

"If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools," McDonnell said.

The debate over firearms in schools unfolded as U.S. President Barack Obama launched a task force on Wednesday that to tackle steps against gun violence.

"The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing," Obama said. "The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean that we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence."

Teachers and school administrators wouldn't be the first non-security employees to be armed for protection: pilots have been allowed to carry guns into the cockpit since 2003.

The Federal Flight Deck Officers program began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to train pilots who have gone through psychological and medical certification on gun use and defensive tactics to protect against air piracy.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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