The debate triggered by last Friday’s shooting in Newtown has largely broken down into two sides: those who say tighter gun control would’ve made the town’s children safer, and those who believe that arming the school principal and teachers might have stopped the gunman before he could kill 26 people. At a Tea Party event Monday, former Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry became the highest-profile Republican politician to support arming teachers and administrators.
Perry argued that anyone with a concealed handgun license should be able to take guns on public property in Texas, including schools, and he urged legislators “to look at ways to improve safety at schools.”
“In the state of Texas, with our concealed handgun license, if you have been duly backgrounded and trained and you are a concealed-handgun-license-carrying individual, you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state.” Teachers should have “access to weapons in their school,” Gov. Perry said, provided they have the proper training and license, and it should be left up to local school districts to determine their own policies in allowing firearms on their campuses. He later added that property owners had the right to prohibit guns on their own private property. Some school districts across Texas already allow school personnel to carry guns; when Perry referred to the one school district that allows teachers and administrators to carry weapons, he was interrupted by loud applause from the crowd.
Perry warned citizens of rash decisions from the federal government.“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.”
Four days after the shooting, an increasing number of gun-touting lawmakers with high marks from the National Rifle Association (NRA), including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Joe Manchin, have come out for gun safety regulations, though some lawmakers are arguing that had teachers or administrators been armed, Friday’s massacre could have been avoided. Legislators in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Nevada are considering the option. And Tennessee’s state legislature plans to introduce a bill that would allow the state to pay for training and arming schoolteachers to protect their schools against shootings.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, there is at least one school district in Texas and in the entire country that allows teachers to carry concealed weapons, the Harrold school district, that has allowed its employees to carry guns since 2008. The district’s superintendent, David Thweatt, said that this “guardian plan” enahnced student safety.
“Is that 100%? No,” Thweatt told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a telephone interview. “Nothing is 100%. But what we do know is that we’ve done all we can to protect our children.”
On the day of the shooting, the governor urged school districts to review emergency operation plans in schools, to “ensure all Texas schools are equipped and ready to carry out a strategic plan to secure the safety of students and staff in the event of a threat such as the one that occurred today.”