Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Gun group offers training for Utah teachers

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Jessica Fiveash sees nothing wrong with arming teachers. She's one herself and learned Thursday how to safely use her 9mm Ruger with a laser sight.

"If we have the ability to stop something, we should do it," said the elementary school teacher, who along with nearly 200 other teachers in Utah took six hours of free gun training offered by the state's leading gun lobby.

It is among the latest efforts to arm or train teachers to confront assailants after a gunman killed his mother and then went on a rampage through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

In Ohio, a firearms group said it was launching a test program in tactical firearms training for 24 teachers. In Arizona, the attorney general is proposing a change to state law that would allow an educator in each school to carry a gun.

The moves to train teachers come after the National Rifle Association proposed placing an armed officer at each of the nation's schools, though some schools already have police officers. Parents and educators have questioned how safe the proposal would keep kids and whether it would be economically feasible.

Some educators say it is dangerous to allow guns on campus. Among the potential dangers they point to are teachers being overpowered for their weapons or students getting them and accidentally or intentionally shooting classmates.

"It's a terrible idea," said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education. "It's a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea."

Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy organization, said to think that a "teacher would be successful in stopping someone who has made the decision to engage in a shootout is just not rationale."

"No teacher is ever going to be as effective as a trained law enforcement officer," Rand said. Even trained police officers don't always hit their targets, and arming teachers could put innocent students at risk of crossfire, she said.

Gun rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children from the kind of deadly shooting that took place in Connecticut. They emphasized the importance of reacting appropriately under pressure.

"We're not suggesting that teachers roam the halls" looking for an armed intruder, said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the state's biggest gun lobby. "They should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooter" breaks into a classroom.

Utah is among a few states that let people carry licensed concealed weapons into public schools without exception. Educators say they have no way of knowing how many teachers are armed.

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