Utah gun rights advocates have launched free concealed-weapons training for public school teachers in the aftermath of the deadly Connecticut school shooting. They argue arming teachers could enable a swift response to such attacks.
The course includes instructions on how to respond to an attack and tactics to disrupt an attacker and save lives.
The Utah Shooting Sports Council (USSC), which organized the course, will attract around 200 teachers. Set to start this Thursday, the tutorials will take place in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley.
The council says dozens of teachers every year attend the classes to learn legally required information on carrying concealed weapons in public places. But this time, the state's leading gun lobby waived its regular fee, about $50, to encourage a higher turnout.
The organizers goal is to arm more teachers after the shooting in the Newtown school, Connecticut where 20 children and six adults were killed by heavily armed 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
"Schools are some of the safest places in the world, but I think teachers understand that something has changed – the sanctity of schools has changed," one of Utah's leading gun instructors and chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, Clark Aposhian, said. "Mass shootings may still be rare, but that doesn't help you when the monster comes in."
The organization explains that they are not “suggesting that teachers roam the halls" for a “monster”, but believe that having a gun will help them to protect children.
"They should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooter breaks into a classroom,” Aposhian said.
The USSC believes that during a shooting like in Newtown, teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes.
Utah, along with Kansas, are the only states that allow individuals with conceal-carry permits to bring their guns into schools. According to gun-rights advocates’ statistics, at least one per cent of Utah teachers, making up sum 240 people, are licensed to carry concealed weapons.
Recently, the idea of training teachers to use firearms has also been suggested in Ohio, where the local gun rights organization offered a three-day course for 24 teachers. The first free class is scheduled for early next month.
“The long-term goal is to develop a standard Armed Teacher curriculum and make the training available to any teacher or school official,” said Ken Hanson from the Buckeye Firearms Association.
Just like the training in Utah, the course in Ohio will focus on identifying a potential attacker and what to do in the event of a school shooting or other emergency.
The initiative to organize concealed-weapons training for school teachers follows the controversial speech by Wayne LaPierre, the Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
LaPierre addressed a room full of reporters, calling for a law that would allow guns in each school across America. The NRA insists that firearms are the only solution that would put an end to shootings in schools.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," the National Rifle Associations’ CEO said.
Exempt from his speech was any mention of Columbine High School, the site of an infamous US school shooting in 1999, which employed such guards. In that attack 12 students and one teacher were killed and 21 students injured.
The speech was met with harsh criticism from anti-gun demonstrators, who interrupted the press conference.
The horrific Newtown shooting has once again sparked debates over the nation's gun laws. Many politicians and public figures called for new restrictions, whilst gun rights defenders claim the ban on arms violates the second Amendment (the right of the people to keep and bear arms) and will not stop shooters, because the “real problem is the criminal”.
Refuting proponents of gun control, LaPierre blamed the US government, entertainment industry and the corporate media for the Newtown massacre.
However, teachers in Utah said they would ban guns if they could. They say Utah legislators left them no choice but to accept weapons in schools – state law forbids schools, districts or college campuses from trying to impose their own gun restrictions.
Carol Lear, Chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education and an opponent of guns in schools, argues that the notion of teachers carrying guns are “horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea” and could also lead to an accidental shooting.