News Column

After Newtown Massacre, Some States Move to Ease Gun Rules

Dec. 27, 2012

As Congress gears up for a fight over possible new gun restrictions, lawmakers in some states have pushed in the opposite direction - to ease gun rules - since the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

None exactly matched the proposal Friday by Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, to train and deploy armed volunteers to help guard schools around the country.

Legislation has been proposed, however, to allow teachers or other school workers to carry firearms in schools in at least seven states: Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, said the idea of arming school personnel was worth a discussion.

"I want a last line of defense," said Jason Villalba, a Republican and newly-elected Texas state representative who plans to introduce the Protection of Texas Children Act to allow schools to designate staff members as armed "marshals" provided they undergo special training.

Some lawmakers have gone further, proposing that any teacher with a permit to carry a concealed weapon be allowed to bring it into school.

"It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended - to allow madmen to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," said Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough, a Republican who plans to sponsor legislation to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in schools after they undergo training.

Several states have pushed for stiffer regulations. In California, lawmakers have proposed strengthening already tough state gun laws, including requiring a permit and background checks for anyone who wants to buy bullets.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed gun owners with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms into schools and other public places.

Snyder objected that it didn't let institutions opt out and prohibit weapons on their grounds.

The different legislative responses underscore the difficulty of reaching a political consensus on guns.

Support for gun control measures is much higher in Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West than in Republican bastions in the Midwest and South, according to polls.

The idea of arming teachers or administrators has drawn plenty of criticism.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said Sandy Hook Elementary "did everything right. ... But you can't stop somebody with an automatic assault rifle from shooting out a window and coming through."

some proposals

Some legislators want to allow teachers and principals or designated "marshals" to carry firearms in schools after they undergo training, or to allow those with permits to carry concealed weapons.

Source: (C) 2012 The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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