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Let Teachers Carry Guns, Say 2 Pa. Lawmakers

Two GOP lawmakers want Pennsylvania teachers and school administrators to carry guns to make schools safer

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Armed guards may soon patrol outside Pennsylvania’s public schools, and the teachers may be armed, as well.

A pair of Republican lawmakers in the state House are working on legislation to make Pennsylvania schools safer.  But while all sides agree on the need to improve school safety, some worry about bringing guns into schools, regardless of the lawmakers’ intent.

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State Rep. Greg Lucas, R-Erie, plans to sponsor legislation that would make it legal for teachers and school administrators to carry weapons in the classroom, provided they are licensed to carry a firearm and have valid and current certification under state law.

As we consider ways to improve school safety, I believe we have to consider trusting school personnel to serve as a first line of defense. We trust them to protect our children every day. I think we need to offer them the tools to carry out that sacred trust,” Lucas wrote in a memo being circulated among members of the state House this week.

Pennsylvania has more than 3,000 public school buildings spread across 500 school districts.

Lucas, who was sworn-in to his first term in office Tuesday, said the bill is personal.

In 1998, a student in Lucas’ hometown of Edinboro brought a gun to a school dance and opened fire, killing one and wounding two others. The body count could have been higher, Lucas said, if not for the intervention of an armed citizen, who used his own gun to stop the shooter.

Students and school employees would be safer if guns were allowed in schools, he said Wednesday.

“I think it’s our duty and responsibility to protect our children, and this is one way of doing it,” Lucas told PA Independent on Wednesday.

The National Rifle Association last month called for armed guards at all American schools in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Connecticut last month. The pro-gun rights lobby suggested using retired police officers and other volunteers.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told MSNBC last month the NRA’s proposal was a “completely dumb-ass idea.”

Clearly, Lucas comes from a different perspective. He is a proud gun owner who has worked as an instructor for the NRA. The NRA endorsed Lucas when he successfully ran for office in November.

He was formerly a teacher and is married to a public school teacher. If people are allowed to carry guns for self-defense in most other settings, he says, the same rules should apply to schools.

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, which advocates gun control, said Wednesday that arming teachers gives her pause.

As a parent, she worries about accidents in the classroom, but also about how students might be able to gain access to those weapons.

I don’t think it is a one-step solution,” Goodman said. “Are you introducing a gun into a situation where it could do more harm than good?

Goodman said it would be better to have more extensive background checks for all guns and for the purchase of ammunition, and to require residents to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement.

Lucas said teachers who chose to be armed would likely be required to keep their weapons locked inside a desk or a safe during the school day.

But Lucas isn’t the only lawmaker looking to increase security at Pennsylvania’s schools.

 

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, chairman of the House State Government Committee, plans to introduce legislation that would allow school districts to hire retired police officers and others with law-enforcement experience to guard schools.

Schools would be allowed to hire people who have completed training to be a municipal police officer in Pennsylvania, graduates of the Pennsylvania State Police Academy and those who had completed other, similar law-enforcement training programs.

Under current law, it is unclear what qualifications are sufficient for that purpose, Metcalfe said.

Metcalfe said he supports Lucas’ proposal, and opposes the idea of “gun-free school zones,” but believes his bill would move more quickly through the Legislature.

“Going farther than that right now, I’m not sure we could get it passed quickly, and this is something that we should move ahead with quickly,” he said.

Goodman said more armed security isn’t necessarily the best way to prevent future school massacres.  She said a gunman killed 13 people and wound 29 others in November 2009 at Fort Hood, an Army base in Texas with plenty of well-armed, well-trained soldiers.

Several other bills dealing with guns and school safety are expected to be introduced in the early days of the new legislative session  Notably, state Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, has announced his intention to introduce an assault weapons ban in Pennsylvania.

Shortly after the Connecticut shootings, Gov. Tom Corbett gave little indication he was interested in such a ban.  He argued that it would be ineffective when so many guns are already available.

Goodman said she hoped lawmakers, early in the new session, would approve legislation linking Pennsylvania to the national background check system for gun purchases.

Chris Miller January 14, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Ben My apologies and I agree with what you say on school free zones. It was probably the fact that a number of people made comments on teachers having a bad day, falling to pieces and shoting the kids
ZachMiller January 15, 2013 at 04:23 AM
Absolutely correct. I was in the military for years, and I can tell you, NOBODY is armed on a military post except for the MP's. I lived at Fort Stewart in Georgia, and I had weapons, but I can assure you, I was not aloud to carry them for any reason. These soldiers were sitting ducks. After Fort Hood, I started keeping my gun in my car, despite it being against regulation, and technically illegal. The bases have lousy security, cars aren't searched. Only those that follow the rules are disarmed on base.
ZachMiller January 15, 2013 at 04:26 AM
Psychological testing for firearm carry? You must be thinking of Australia, or England. This is America Mr. Jamison. Teachers who believe that they can competently use a firearm to defend themselves and the children, and who have a desire to do so, should be allowed this right, as is any American citizen, in most public locations.
ZachMiller January 15, 2013 at 04:30 AM
Arming teachers is an awful idea. Let the teachers be armed, who are already armed outside of school, consider themselves competent in the use of a weapon, and have a desire to carry one in defense of their students.
John Donches March 04, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Just to let everyone know that there will be a presentation at Fire Company #1 in Emmaus on “Gun Rights” Tuesday, March 19th @ 7:30 PM. Click on the highlight to go to the Flyer and info sheet on this event. We at C.E.P.T.A. invite everyone to attend and come prepared to ask your questions. http://ceptapa.wordpress.com

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