School workers should have the ability to arm themselves to defend students and staff, under legislation two Oklahoma lawmakers said they plan to introduce, the Tulsa World reported Dec. 18.
In the wake of the shootings in Newton, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 27 dead (including 20 children), there have been many people calling for stricter gun control laws, including relatively surprising individuals like U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. But others, like former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, have argued that perhaps arming a school staff member in each school could help to prevent such incidents.
Oklahoma Rep. Mark McCullough and Sen. Ralph Shortey, both Republicans, take Bennett’s side of the question. Instead of further restrictions on guns, they would favor putting guns in the hands of school staff members (through concealed-carry permits) to allow them to defend the lives of children and themselves.
“I trust my children to my local teachers and principal every day,” McCullough told the World. “I want to give these trusted, responsible educators the ability to defend themselves and our children in the same way any normal parent would in the face of the unthinkable.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, also told the Associated Press Monday that if people have concealed-carry permits in the state, they should be allowed to carry their firearms anywhere in the state, including at schools. “One of the things that I hope we don’t see from our federal government is this knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they come in and they think they know the answer,” he said.
Who doesn’t agree with those lawmakers? Lynn Stockley, the president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, the teachers union for the city district, said she hasn’t met any teacher who wants to be armed at school. Armed security officers are fine, she said, but she said practical issues (like where to store the guns) would make the proposal problematic.
In the parlance of gun laws, Texas and Oklahoma, along with 36 others, are “shall issue” states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That phrase means that either local or state law enforcement must issue a person a concealed-weapon permit because the person has satisfied all the relevant criteria, or because the person does not need to demonstrate a need for the weapon. (Connecticut is a “may issue” state, one of 10. Such states either can deny a person a concealed-weapon permit even if relevant criteria are met, or the person must demonstrate a need, like personal endangerment.)
Oklahoma prohibits guns on any school property or in any school vehicle, with two exceptions. One is for guns “designed for hunting” or handguns kept in a private vehicle picking up or dropping off a student at school that is not left unattended, according to the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which opposes allowing guns at schools. The other exception is for educational courses at schools involving firearms, such as hunter training or gun safety.
In Texas, even those with concealed-weapons permits are prohibited from bringing firearms onto school property or having them in school vehicles. The provision applies to both public and private schools in the state.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.