Salt Lake City
Gun rights advocates on Thursday provided six hours of gun training for 200 Utah educators, saying the only way to protect children from a school shooter is to make sure teachers can shoot back.
"We are providing a class for educators within the state of Utah, pre-school through secondary schools, to learn about concealed carry and proper gun handling and gun laws," Clark Aposhian, President of the Utah Shooting Sport Council, the state's leading gun lobby told the UK's Telegraph News.
It's an idea gaining traction since the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded to a chorus of voices calling for gun control in the aftermath of the deadly shooting on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Police said Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home before driving to the school and killing 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.
The National Rifle Association said more guns, not fewer is the answer to protecting children in the classroom. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said in a press conference on Dec. 21.
Utah is one of a handful of states that allows people with concealed-carry licenses to take their weapons onto school property, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Reuters writes.
"We're not going to get the guns out of the criminals hands, so lets put some guns in the good guys hands," Aposhian added.
'I just bought a bra holster'
Many of the teachers attending Thursday's training inside the conference room at Maverick Center, a hockey arena in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley, thought it was a positive move.
"I just bought a bra holster," said Jessica Fiveash, a 32-year-old teacher and wife of a retired Army sergeant who grew up shooting and said she had no hesitation packing a gun at school, according to the Telegraph.
"I'm here because I don't want to be a statistic, and I don't want to lose any of my kids," she said in between sessions Thursday, adding that several parents have asked her if she'd consider carrying a gun during school. "If somebody is coming after my kids, they're going down and going down hard."
"I think criminals might hit schools on purpose because they're easy sitting targets, but if they knew that teachers were prepared they would be less likely to go in because it's not just an easy in-out job," said elementary school teacher Jona Tuttle.
'Guns have no place in our schools'
The National Education Association and a number of school officials criticized the NRA's stance saying, efforts at curbing gun violence in schools should be tied to tightening firearms laws.
"Guns have no place in our schools. Period," Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten, the presidents of the two biggest U.S. teachers' unions, said in a joint statement. "We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees."
Utah teacher Kerrie Anderson agrees. "How would I keep that gun safe?" Anderson told Reuters. "I wouldn't carry (it) on my person while teaching, where a disgruntled student could overpower me and take it. And if I have it secured in my office, it might not be a viable form of protection."
She isn't the only one asking those questions. "It's a terrible idea," said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education, who argues teachers could be overpowered for their guns or misfire or cause an accidental shooting, according to CBS News. "It's a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea."
"We think it makes a lot more sense to prevent a school shooter from getting the gun in the first place," said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., to Reuters.
Utah educators say they would ban guns if they could and have no way of knowing how many teachers are armed. The Utah State Board of Education even released a statement about it. "We urge caution and thoughtful consideration. Schools in Utah have developed emergency plans to handle such situations," the statement read, according to Utah's KSL News. "The Board encourages all Utah schools to review their emergency plans, working with local law enforcement agencies, with the safety of students in all situations the primary concern."