Utah teachers line up for weapons training

Education lawyer decries it as ‘rotten idea’

Christine Caldwell receives firearms training with a 9 mm Glock from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers Thursday in West Valley City, Utah. The Utah Shooting Sports Council offered six hours of training in handling concealed weapons in the latest effort to arm teachers to confront school assailants. Enlarge photo

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Christine Caldwell receives firearms training with a 9 mm Glock from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers Thursday in West Valley City, Utah. The Utah Shooting Sports Council offered six hours of training in handling concealed weapons in the latest effort to arm teachers to confront school assailants.

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah Ė Jessica Fiveash sees nothing wrong with arming teachers. Sheís one herself, and learned Thursday how to safely use her 9 mm Ruger with a laser sight.

ďIf we have the ability to stop something, we should do it,Ē said the elementary school teacher, who along with nearly 200 other teachers in Utah took six hours of free gun training offered by the stateís leading gun lobby.

It is among the latest efforts to arm or train teachers to confront assailants after a gunman killed his mother and then went on a rampage through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

In Ohio, a firearms group said it was launching a test program in tactical firearms training for 24 teachers. In Arizona, the attorney general is proposing a change to state law that would allow an educator in each school to carry a gun.

The moves to train teachers come after the National Rifle Association proposed placing an armed officer at each of the nationís schools, though some schools already have police officers. Parents and educators have questioned how safe the proposal would keep kids and whether it would be economically feasible.

Some educators say it is dangerous to allow guns on campus. Among the potential dangers they point to are teachers being overpowered for their weapons or students getting them and accidentally or purposely shooting classmates.

ďItís a terrible idea,Ē said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education. ďItís a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea.Ē

Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control advocacy organization, said to believe that a ďteacher would be successful in stopping someone who has made the decision to engage in a shootout is just not rational.Ē

ďNo teacher is ever going to be as effective as a trained law-enforcement officer,Ē Rand said. Even trained police officers donít always hit their targets, and arming teachers could put innocent students at risk of crossfire, she said.

Gun-rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children from the kind of deadly shooting that took place in Connecticut. They emphasized the importance of reacting appropriately under pressure.

ďWeíre not suggesting that teachers roam the hallsĒ looking for an armed intruder, said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the stateís biggest gun lobby. ďThey should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooterĒ breaks into a classroom.

The group waived its $50 fee for the training. Instruction featured plastic guns and emphasized that people facing deadly threats should announce or show their gun and take cover before trying to shoot. They cautioned teachers about the liability that comes with packing a gun in public.

ďItís going to be a hassle. Itís another responsibility. You canít just leave your gun lying around,Ē Aposhian said. ďNot for a minute.Ē

The teachers at the basic gun training applied for a concealed-weapons permit, submitting fingerprints and a mug shot for a criminal background check. The class kicked off as an instructor in the ďpsychology of mass violenceĒ offered various tactics to disrupt an assailant.

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