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Oklahoma legislator says teachers need option to carry guns at school

An Oklahoma legislator says teachers and principals should be allowed to carry firearms to school if they are CLEET certified. School districts say they aren't interested.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL AND MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: December 17, 2012 at 11:35 pm •  Published: December 17, 2012
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A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said officials did not have an immediate answer about how federal law would affect the ability for Oklahoma teachers to carry guns to work.

McCullough said he thinks his bill would hold its own in court against the federal law.

“They've got a federal law that does not essentially work,” he said. “It would create a constitutional crisis, perhaps, but a short-lived one.”

Educator opinions

Several educators opposed McCullough's idea. Superintendents from the state's two largest school districts — Oklahoma City and Tulsa — expressed concern about the idea.

“I am not interested in arming teachers and administrators with weapons in our school district, but clearly something needs to happen,” Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said. “It would make more sense if funding could be made available to increase law enforcement presence.”

Tulsa Public Schools has its own 23-member police force, Superintendent Keith Ballard said. On-campus law enforcement has dramatically reduced crime. He wouldn't expect the same result from allowing teachers to have guns.

“Arming teachers and principals is not the answer if we are looking to make schools safe,” he said. “Ultimately, the best defense is open communication.”

Liberty Superintendent Donna Campo said she wants to see more information about McCullough's plan before deciding how she feels. Her school district is in Mounds, just south of Tulsa in Creek County.

In a rural area like Mounds, law enforcement could be slow to respond because of long travel times, she said, so the district hired a school resource officer last fall.

Chad Coomer, director of curriculum for Glenpool Public Schools, said he and the school resource officer spent Monday doing walk-throughs of all the district schools, looking for possible security improvements.

One of the best defenses, he said, is strong relationships among students, staff and families.

“Talk about it,” he said. “That's been our response. ... If you hear something, if you see something, share it. Talk about it.”

Child safety is the top priority of schools, and that could mean allowing administrators to have weapons, said Ginger Tinney, executive director Professional Oklahoma Educators.

“I do think that time is of the essence when we're faced with something this crazy and catastrophic,” Tinney said. “If we had a principal that had a weapon, yeah, I think that would be OK. Otherwise they're just sitting ducks. They have no way to protect themselves.”

Learning how to respond to active shooter situations is a complex and intensive part of law enforcement training, said Stan Florence, director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Members of the public armed with guns are not only less effective in responding to these types of situations, but there is a chance they could make the problem worse.

“It's hard enough when you're trained to go into an active shooting situation to make sure the rounds you fire go where they're intended to,” Florence said. “You'd just have to really consider that if you're someone carrying a weapon, especially in a setting where there's a lot of innocent bystanders.”

CONTRIBUTING:

ZEKE CAMPFIELD,

STAFF WRITER


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