In response to Newtown shootings, some states move to put guns in classrooms
Melissa Colyer, a middle school teacher in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, poses with a gun after a concealed-carry course.
June 12th, 2013
11:50 AM ET

In response to Newtown shootings, some states move to put guns in classrooms

By Lauren Russell, CNN

(CNN) - While most of the nation's students are enjoying summer break, teachers in a handful of states are studying - not their fall curriculum, but how to take out an assailant.

In Ohio, Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman.

"We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class," Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. "People doubted if we could fill the class."

States tighten, loosen gun laws after Newtown

Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said.

Interest in arming teachers has grown among some school staff, gun rights groups and lawmakers in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 students - ages 6 and 7 - and six adults were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.

Photos: Teachers pose with their guns

Gun rights groups have sponsored classes for teachers in a number of states from Texas to Ohio.

In the six months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, legislators in at least 30 states have proposed laws allowing teachers and other school staff to carry firearms on primary and secondary school campuses, according to Lauren Heintz, a research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.  In most states the bills have failed, but laws have been enacted in South Dakota, Alabama, Arizona, and Kansas. Texas, which already allows staff to carry firearms with school approval, passed two new laws creating a "school marshal" program and addressing training teachers.

Some bills proposed in the past six months require only that the school employee have a concealed-firearm permit, but many of the bills include training provisions. For example, South Dakota's new law requires law enforcement-approved training for every appointed school sentinel.

The week after Sandy Hook, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the media that all schools in the United States should have armed security, and an NRA-backed task force proposed training and arming adults at schools.

Six months since Sandy Hook: Newtown residents find their voice

"Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared?" LaPierre asked. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said.

Before Sandy Hook, no state's law explicitly permitted firearms on school campuses, though some states had exemptions, according to the NCSL.

For 12 years, Utah's concealed weapon law has permitted a person to have, on his or her person or in a secure lockbox, a weapon inside a school. As concealed firearm permit holders, they are not required to tell parents or school officials.

But in Texas and Ohio, for instance, a person must get permission from the school district to bring a concealed weapon on school grounds.

The Harrold Independent School District board in rural Texas approved a plan to arm certain staff members in 2007.  Under the so-called Guardian Plan, identities of armed staff members aren't divulged. This way, a shooter can't target them, the superintendent wrote in a column for CNN's "Schools of Thought" blog after Newtown.

"At the end of the school day, we at Harrold want to know we've done everything possible to protect our children from people who are intent on harming them," David Thweatt wrote.

The Union Grove Independent School District and Van Independent School District, both in East Texas, in January became the second and third districts in the state to authorize teachers with concealed handgun licenses to carry firearms on campus.

At Colt's Connecticut factory, no apologies for arming America

Ohio allows school boards to vote on whether teachers and administrators can carry concealed weapons into schools, a stipulation that was largely overlooked until Sandy Hook. The exception has existed since at least 2008 when the law was last amended.

Dick Caster, head of the Ohio School Board Association, said school safety plans are private documents, so there isn't a list of all the school districts that have armed employees.  Though not required to disclose it, a few Ohio school districts have made headlines by voting to allow teachers to carry guns.  Sidney City Schools announced in March it would be arming staff, and the school board in Montpelier approved arming its custodial staff in January.

But Bill Bond, a former principal who once confronted a shooter, isn't so sure arming teachers is the answer.  In 1997, a student shot eight of his peers at Kentucky's Heath High School, where Bond was principal at the time. Three of those students were killed in the shooting. Looking back, Bond said he wouldn't have wanted a gun. "It could have made the situation worse," he said.  "The potential for wrongful accidental killing is greater than the potential for saving," he said about arming school personnel.

He supports having trained school resource officers on campus, but educators have enough on their plates without the responsibility of a deadly weapon, he said.

"Anytime you have divided or added responsibilities, it distracts from primary responsibilities," he said. "From an educational standpoint, I'm against it."

Bond worked 29 years in schools and has been the school safety expert with the National Association of Secondary School Principals for 12 years. He's heard talk of arming school personnel before, but it wasn't seriously considered until after Sandy Hook, he said.

"I do realize that the only thing that would have been able to stop (the shooter) was gunfire," he said, "but that particular situation is an anomaly."

He also points out that an armed educator would have had only one gun with a few rounds, while the shooter had multiple firearms and 30-round magazines.

"Teachers will hesitate and that will cause teachers to be killed, and if they don't hesitate they'll make the wrong decision," Bond said. "It's wracked with danger."

Ken Trump, a school safety consultant who runs his own firm, agrees that it's a high-risk, high-liability proposal. He thinks only a law enforcement officer should carry weapons on campus.

"There's a huge difference between saying, 'I can protect my family and my home,' versus 'I'm prepared to protect the masses,'" he said.

There's also the question of whether teachers want to carry guns. Nearly three-fourths of teachers said they would not bring a firearm to school even if allowed, a February School Improvement Network survey showed.  However, the survey showed most educators believed armed guards would improve safety.

John Benner, president and chief instructor at the Ohio-based Tactical Defense Institute, has trained school resource officers for years. He taught his first class to teachers this spring.

The three-day class, sponsored by Buckeye Firearms Association, examined mass shootings and taught school personnel how to predict a killer's behavior and shoot on the run amid obstacles like narrow hallways and stairwells. Police officers and SWAT commanders help teach the course. Participants had to have a concealed weapons permit before registering.

Buckeye paid about $1,000 per teacher, which includes tuition, room and board, and ammunition. The group will cover tuition and board for the six courses offered this summer.

Benner would like to see all school employees - teachers, resource officers, administrators - learn to use firearms.

"I hate the idea of arming teachers, but we have to," Benner said. Signs and locks won't deter an attacker and police can't respond quickly enough, he said.  "It's the only thing that's going to work."

Asked if training law enforcement officers to patrol schools was a better idea than arming teachers, Caster, who was the executive director for the National Association of School Resource Officers before joining the Ohio School Board Association, said it's not possible.

School resource officers are typically funded by either the school or the local law enforcement agency.

"This is what it boils down to: Can you afford to have an officer in every school?" Caster said. "It's not in the budget."

In any event, he said, emotions should not drive the discussion.

"This isn't about guns, it's about a possible tactic," Caster said. "My plea is that we have a rational, logical discussion (about arming teachers) as an additional possible tool."

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Filed under: Guns in school • School safety • Teachers
soundoff (2,192 Responses)
  1. UncleJohn

    Crimminy – I wouldn't have made it out of kindergarten.

    June 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  2. Chris

    I agree with a lot of your beliefs, but the real truth is, no matter how many laws are enacted by the government, firearms are readily available to anyone who can afford them. There are a lot of blackmarket ways of purchasing a firearm, and even drug dealers can aid in illegally obtaining a firearm.

    As an educator, a father, a friend, and a husband, I believe that teachers should have the right to posess a firearm. This is because, teachers spend 8-10 hours a day raising a group of children that in reality is not their own, but as a teacher you feel a part of each childs life. Therefore, teachers need to be able to protect their children in the same fashion a parent would want to protect his/her home from invasion. After all, a classroom is a home for both children and educators, and for some, it is all they have.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  3. sayflyby

    I know that teacher is out to teach a new lescine that's 4 shore is school weath it?gust anthe bick in the wall,.pnm,.

    June 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  4. jscott

    I agree.

    June 23, 2013 at 5:07 am |
  5. Felix

    It's stupid for teachers to be armed because they may shoot their own students if something terrible happens!

    June 23, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Jimmy

      Well,I think it that is why they need to learn to use a gun,to control it,even more,need to learn how to calm down,not feel scare when see gun shoots,and then try to do something make .

      June 23, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  6. Well.......

    Looks like the kid's are definitely getting homeschooled or are going to a private school.

    June 22, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  7. krehator

    It's typically over before anyone reacts.

    June 22, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  8. Bruce Rubin

    Take out an assailant?? They should have better dating standards.

    June 22, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  9. M.A.P.

    Wow. Some of the comments on here just go to prove that Americans are the most paranoid untrusting people in the world. You all say how much you love your country, yet think every single person should have a gun just in case a psycho comes trying to commit a mass murder? Don'T you realise how insane that sounds? Get some comprehensible gun laws for christ's sake and stop acting like owning a gun is a god given right.

    June 22, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • audrey

      you hit the nail on the head.

      June 25, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • W.R.D

      Laws do not prevent crime, people prevent crime. It is our God given right to defend ourselves, and what better way? by enacting more laws that prevent nothing? Tell me a law that has ever prevented a crime... Laws are there to punish law breakers. If flipping the bird were against the law, how would those words on a page prevent me from doing so? They can't just like mass killings cannot be prevented by laws. But a killer on a spree, could be stopped by a person with a gun, or 2 people, or 3... Why is this so hard to comprehend? It is a right, exercise it or don't...

      June 25, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • DMG2FUN

      Name a comprehensible gun law criminals will obey!

      June 23, 2013 at 7:32 am |
      • dude

        one that prevents a gun from falling into their hands...

        June 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • newbro

      I live in HK, where firearms are illegal, which is the way I really think it should be. But the fact is that a new gun control policy is simply not gonna happen, at least not anytime soon in the US. So consider the rising number of school shootings lately, I do believe it's not a bad idea to give out lesson to teachers on basic firearm handling, or at least how to react when a situation arises.

      June 25, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • Jeff

      I am an American and agree thoroughly with your points

      June 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
      • jscott

        I agree completely

        June 23, 2013 at 5:07 am |
  10. Greg

    I respect the fact that these teachers are learning to use firearms. In fact, I think people should at least have a working knowledge.
    My question is, if a gun man is in a school and the teacher shoots the gunman who will help that teacher pick up the pieces of having to shoot a person. Second question, what if it is a student from that school and the teacher has to shoot him or her. Who will help that teacher pick up the pieces.

    I know how to shoot both rifles and handguns at targets which is fun, from what I understand though shooting a person is an entire different ballgame and it has an effect on the person who shoots some one.

    June 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  11. ?

    these nra buffons who think a gun in everybody's hand is the solution are plain wrong, the only reason police fire back in engagements is the fact they won't be able to wear their badge the next day (pride), people get scared in firefights and it is only those who have been in life and death situations enough times (navy seals, marines, ect..) who don't fear death, the average person will look out for number one, go into shock, hide and just maybe grab the composure to unholster their weapon, but i will say this, the real threat in my opinion comes from those students who fail out of college – nearly every mass murderer was a college drop out, my guess is between the debt, failure and loss of their dream job they lost the will to live and wanted to inflict pain on others, advisors and parents need a strong dialogue and the parents of those students who are failing out better make sure their child (18 doesn't make you a man) is not armed

    June 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  12. No Guns

    I disagree..Guns should only be carried by a certified and licensed professional. I work as a police officer on a college campus, and know these students don’t even know how to tie their shoes when they first leave home let alone carry a gun. As police officers we go through special training on how to handle an ACTIVE SHOOTER. Something the non-law enforcement gun owners know nothing about. It’s more to effectively eliminating a moving and violent target than just pointing and shooting. Another thing people don’t understand, when police receive a call we only have limited information on the shoot. White male with a gun...And in the suburb of Houston in which I currently work and reside, that everybody..SO the first one that appears through the running crowd with a gun pointed is a dangerous move for him/her.

    June 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • BoomerLazar

      Ahh, the old "a CCW will make you a target" argument. Never happens. The only time police shoot a law abiding citizen with a gun it seems is when they are in their OWN homes. I highly doubt you actually are a police officer anyway. Your comment sounds like typical anti-talk.

      Unless cops are specifically targeted, you are NOT first responders, you are second responders. People actually there being attacked are first responders. Give them the tools for EFFECTIVE self defense.

      June 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Scare The Pilgrim

      Crimson Trace Grips ,,Holosite optics, all handgun custom parts on a Glock,,A Colt,,A Semi-Auto pistol anything to me ,,well I don't count. I got out of school alive in 1978 when we didn't shoot at each other,,I started trapshooting in 1970 at age 12 ATA Member 4046233,,,Where are the smart ones ?? anyone trained at all knows the wisdom,,YOU CARRY YOUR PISTOL TO PROTECT YOU UNTIL YOU GET WITHIN REACH OF YOUR RIFLE,,sometimes I feel old as dirt since its obvious I am Old School,,but when its isn't broke don't try to fix it. WE Train Soldiers in this country in 90 days ,,BOOTCAMP,,,and my own father joined the U.S. Army at age 16,,he took his birth certificate to the county courthouse and explained "There Has To Be A Mistake on the date ,,so a 16 Year Old Named Albert Mosley from Owsley County , Ky became a Sergeant 1st Class in uncle sams Army,,had a son ,,me . I don't know what kind of Jollies People like you get from claiming Most people can't shoot without all that training you speak of..Mr.. This is Kentucky,,you be a lot better off trying tofind someone Who Can't Shoot,,Happy Hunting ..aka = Bigfoot

      June 21, 2013 at 3:52 am |
      • Michael Arnaud

        For Bigfoot & GW Hammer-I TOTALLY agree with both of you. My Dad is a 20 year Army Combat Vet, became a deputy sheriff when he retired from the Army. I'm an Army Brat. Raised around way more powerful stuff than most "city folk" see .One of the first things Dad taught me was RESPECT for the TOOL in YOUR hand. Dad also taught me that I was RESPONSIBLE for MY OWN ACTIONS and to NOT MAKE EXCUSES as we see to often in our society. When I bought my my own guns, the first thing I taught my kids was EXACTLY what Dad taught me. If you don't teach RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY when it come to firearms you have the crimes we have to deal with in our society. Our society has become to willing to 'let the government handle it'. We don't need a CCW law in this country. What we need is an OPEN CARRY Law throughout the US. WHY hide the guns people have when we could carry the guns openly on our person? Kind of think that would have a BIG deterrent on the criminal element to see Citizens armed, don't you both think?

        June 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
      • GW Hamer

        Hey Bigfoot!
        My family and I are Virginia born-n-raised, I like yourself was taught to respect weapons and not to fear them. Currently I find myself in a God forsaken State called Connecticut, it seems the fine citizens of this State do not agree with us, 6 months have passed ..."Sandyhook". not only are you not allowed (State Law) to possess a weapon on school grounds, a whole new set of laws have been enacted over the past six months. Back ground checks are one issue that may help when a person looks at the situtation (Wrong Person with a gun), however these people went way overboard. Honestly, you sound rational to me, my father also served in WW2 and I was raised around weapons of all types, I believe most "city folk" are not , the only thing they know is that little jody ate a bullet by...accident, on purpose (B&E, Robbery ect:) and is now DEAD. They preceive it as antiquated, only a "red neck" would conceive a gun as a good thing. I don't think it's a fight with people who understand weapons, it's how to over come the fear of the unknown, to preswade people who ,if ya have a southern draw in your voice they see you as stupid or worse. Any way were holden down the fort, God speed with reguards to your efforts.

        A Virginia country boy, in a foreign land. : )

        June 22, 2013 at 7:19 am |
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