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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In the wake of the mass killing of children at a Connecticut elementary school last week, an Oklahoma lawmaker said Monday teachers and principals should have the option of bringing guns to school.

“This sacrosanct notion that we cannot do anything but have gun-free zones is just a fallacy,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “What we're dealing with here is people who don't care. They've erased their moral compass. They don't care about the law, and they are intent on horrific acts.”

McCullough pledged to introduce legislation in the upcoming session to allow principals and teachers who go through training to be able to carry firearms on school property.

Several educators said Monday they aren't interested.

“I could not be in more opposition to that idea,” Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr said. “Schools are not a place where we should be arming combatants. ...

“Our job as educators is to try to create an educational environment and try to teach students how to love one another and try to get along with one another so these kinds of tragedies that occurred in Connecticut never happen again. That's our job. Our job's not to try to kill an intruder.”

The idea is unsafe, said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.

“I don't think the answer to our gun problem is add more guns into the equation,” Allen said. “I don't think he probably really understands how schools operate. Schools can be emotional places at times. Kids can get emotional. Teachers can get emotional. Parents come in emotional. Throw weapons into that mix, and it can be dangerous.”

But in light of the Connecticut shooting, Allen said, educators, law enforcement, parents and the community should be talking about how to keep children safe.

Promoting ideas

McCullough said his planned bill is not a knee-jerk reaction but rather a solution to the problem of school safety he has considered for a while.

McCullough said many teachers and principals would be willing to go through the training provided by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to be able to better protect their students.

“The idea is let's take a readily available resource — people that have buy-in, they care about kids — and let's train them to the level of police officers and put them back in their schools,” McCullough said. “I fear an accident or someone getting a gun away from a trained professional much less than I fear someone coming on campus and wreaking the kind of havoc that was done last week.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said the events on Friday hit everyone hard.

“I don't want to politicize anything,” Bingman said, “but I think at some point, rational minds need to sit down and ensure you have safe schools.”

Lawmakers have until 4 p.m. Jan. 17 to file bills. Legislative leaders will have time to sift through the proposed bills that deal with school safety and come up with a plan, Bingman said.

Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, took the proposed legislation a step further and said he'd allow any teacher or principal with an open-carry permit to bring a firearm to school.

“I can go into any elementary school in my district and walk through any door,” Shortey said. “When citizens have the liberty to protect themselves, they will do so, and they will do so responsibly.”

Federal law bans firearms from school zones, and state law does the same. Some exceptions are allowed, such as law enforcement. Firearms are also allowed for specific, school-approved events, such as a hunter education class, a shooting team or a history re-enactment.

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