Americans appear to have taken up the president’s call for a national discourse on guns in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
But Barack Obama may not like the answer they are giving him as a push to permit teachers to carry concealed weapons is gathering steam in several states.
Following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, lawmakers in several states, including Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oregon and Virginia, have proposed or introduced legislation that would permit teachers with concealed carry permits to voluntarily bring their weapons onto school grounds.
Just days ago, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell said the state should have a discussion about allowing school staff to carry concealed weapons to protect children. State Delegate Robert Marshall has gone further, proposing a bill that would require school districts to designate some staff members to do so.
Mississippi State Rep. Mike Kelley has filed a bill that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. The bill currently has the backing of more than two dozen state lawmakers. Current law prohibits concealed guns unless approved by a school board or official.
Tony Cornish, a state representative in Minnesota, plans to introduce legislation to arm teachers.
“It’s something that we have to face that all of the laws in the world sometimes aren’t just going to work,” Cornish told Minnesota Public Radio. “The cop can’t be everywhere so the best person to defend yourself is yourself.”
In South Carolina, state Rep. Phillip Lowe has introduced a similar proposal that would apply to teachers who have a concealed carry permit. Lowe’s bill would require teachers to complete a training course and notify school officials whenever they bring the weapon on campus. They would also be required to wear the weapon at all times.
The call to arm teachers has sent gun control advocates into a frenzy. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said arming teachers sends the wrong message to students.
“It’s saying the only answer to violence is more violence. The only answer to guns is more guns,” Gross said.
The nation’s two largest teachers unions are emphatically against arming teachers. saying it would not keep schools safe.
In a joint letter, the National Education and the American Federation of Teachers said: “Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.”
The letter called the idea of eliminating the gun-free zones that make schools an easy target and permitting teachers who have concealed carry permits and desire to bring their weapons to school “dangerous.”
“Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea and instead focus on measures that will create the safe and supportive learning environments our children deserve.”
President Obama has responded to the Newtown shooting by calling for more gun control, despite the fact Adam Lanza violated multiple gun laws prior to the shooting and Connecticut already has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the president wants a host of gun control restrictions that have long been desired by liberals. Carney said Obama wants to require background checks for all private sales of firearms and a ban on semi-automatic weapons that are often labeled assault rifles.
Contrary to media reports, semi-automatic weapons are not military weapons. According to the military definition, assault rifles are fully automatic, meaning once the trigger is pulled, the weapon continues to fire until the trigger is released or the magazine is emptied. These weapons have been illegal for private citizens to own since 1934, unless they obtain a special permit.
By contrast, semi-automatic weapons require the shooter to pull the trigger for each round. Congress has changed the definition of assault weapons to include semi-automatics that look like military weapons.
Saying the Newtown shooting must force lawmakers to action, Obama has tasked Vice President Joe Biden with creating a task force to present solutions for gun violence by the end of the year.
Despite an initial push for stricter gun control laws, there is evidence that the trend may be dissipating.
Last week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who received an A rating from the NRA, said it was “time to move beyond rhetoric” over gun control.
However, he has since clarified his remarks, saying he was only calling for a conversation on the issues surrounding the shooting.
“I’m not supporting a ban on anything. I’m supporting a conversation on everything,” Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews.
‘It’s about time’
Larry Pratt, president of Gun Owners of America, told WND that despite calls by media and Democrats for gun control, his organization has received strong support from the public, particularly since his well-circulated interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.
Pratt argued that the way to prevent shootings like those at Sandy Hook is to get rid of laws that prevent people from protecting themselves.
“The feedback that we have gotten from people who were not members of Gun Owners of America was to the effect of it’s about time somebody said that,” Pratt told WND. “It’s been very affirming.”
Pratt said that, ultimately, “we’re going to look back and be very grateful to Piers Morgan for having perhaps provided the turning point in the debate.”
“The response that we got to the interview with Morgan indicates that a lot of Americans have just had it,” he said. “The way he said what he said reminded a lot of people that’s why we’re no longer British.”
In the interview, Morgan called Pratt’s views “complete and utter nonsense.”
The host went into a meltdown after Pratt noted that Europe has a higher violent crime rate than America. Morgan called Pratt an “unbelievably stupid man” and charged he didn’t give a d— about the gun murder rate in America.
Pratt said the recent shooting at an Oregon mall showed what might have happened if teachers were allowed to concealed carry in schools.
“The shooting out at Oregon shows how it should’ve happened in Newtown. A man was in a mall when he heard the shots,” Pratt explained. “He had a concealed carry firearm, and even it was against the mall’s policy he had his weapon. When he ran to the scene of the crime with his gun out, the shooter ran away and committed suicide.”
“Had a teacher pulled out a weapon in Newtown, it’s a likely possibility the shooter would’ve committed suicide long before he likely did. The one thing that seems to be in these people’s twisted minds is, ‘I will determine when I die,’” Pratt said.
Several states already permit teachers with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons to school. Utah has allowed teachers and private citizens to bring their weapons to school for several years.
In Harrold, Texas, the local school board has had an “arm the teachers” policy in place since 2008. David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold School District, told the Associated Press that in the years since the policy has been in place, there has not been a single safety issue involving students, which he attributes to the high level of training the teachers receive.
“Their accuracy is probably going to be 100 percent. The only people who have more shooting training in the state of Texas than my teachers are Highway Patrol,” Thweatt said. “A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible, holstered weapon, but our teachers have master’s degrees, are older and have had extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children.”
In Connecticut, permit holders are allowed to carry in schools, provided the school gives them permission.