Governors across the country have differing views on allowing certain teachers to carry firearms, which is among the policies President Donald Trump has proposed.
“It is easy to kill people in a school because it is a gun-free zone,” @GovMattBevin says.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said the larger problem is that the culture is “increasingly desensitized to life itself, to death, to respect for one another.”
Bevin didn’t embrace the Trump proposal for armed teachers, but is open to the idea.
“Right now, the reason it is easy to kill people in a school is because it is a gun-free zone and is known to be a gun-free zone,” Bevin, a Republican, told reporters over the weekend at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington.
“Anyone who brings a gun into that gun-free zone knows that they have some period of time—might be seconds, but more likely minutes—before anyone will encounter them to stop them in any way, shape, or form.”
Bevin added that any teacher or administrator carrying a firearm in schools “should be highly trained, highly capable, not just in terms of their physical training, but they should go through a very thorough psychiatric vetting,” well above what it takes to get a concealed-carry license.
“Does that mean we should do it? Not necessarily,” Bevin said. “But, I’m not convinced we shouldn’t do it. I’m convinced that if we want to secure our young people, we should be open to any and all possibilities making that possible.”
Trump spoke to governors on Feb. 25 and called for a ban on bump stocks, which are devices that can be added to a gun to make it fire more rapidly. During a meeting with a bipartisan group of members of Congress Wednesday, Trump focused on expanding background checks and floated the idea of raising the age to buy rifles.
Meanwhile, in response to the Parkland high school shooting in his own state, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott is calling for increasing the age for buying a rifle from 18 to 21.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 50 percent back the Trump push to allow concealed carry among teachers. Increased background checks and raising the purchasing age gained support from more than 80 percent of respondents.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, insists Trump isn’t going far enough.
“I think we certainly need stronger gun safety rules in this country. Rhode Island has some of the strongest laws,” Raimondo told reporters at the National Governors Association meeting. “I think we need a ban on military-style weapons. … These guns are the most dangerous weapons we have.”
The gunman used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Raimondo said Trump “needs to get serious about it,” and referenced high school students advocating new gun control laws, including the scheduled March 24 “March for Our Lives” in Washington.
“Now we are seeing the fight is being led by our kids because the grown-ups aren’t getting the job done, and, when the children lead us, you know it’s past time to listen to them,” the Rhode Island governor added.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in Washington this week for the National Association of Attorneys General gathering, said he questions whether all schools across his state can afford to have armed professionals securing them.
“If that’s not possible, maybe the next best alternative is to train and arm certain teachers that have been trained. I’m very open to that. I don’t know why that couldn’t be effective,” Paxton told The Daily Signal Tuesday after an event at The Heritage Foundation.
“One, it would act as a deterrent if the shooter comes in, they don’t know who’s armed and who’s not. Two, if they do come and decide a deterrent is not enough, the opportunity to save lives is there. We don’t have to wait for first responders, who are sometimes a long way away.”
Paxton added he favored expanding background checks, but said if a killer wants to obtain a bump stock, they will. He also objects to a ban on semi-automatic rifles, which critics call “assault weapons.”
“When we had the shooting in Sutherland Springs in Texas, it was a guy with an AR-15 that came in and saved everybody’s life,” Paxton said, referring to a gunman who killed 26 churchgoers last November in Sutherland Springs. “If he had not had that capacity, would we have saved the rest of the people in that church? I’m not sure banning certain weapons is going to change somebody determined to kill somebody.”
South Dakota already allows certain teachers to carry guns, said South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican.
“I know the president was encouraging schools to consider arming some of their staff,” Daugaard told reporters at the National Governors Association meeting. “South Dakota does have a school sentinel program that does provide for that sort of thing. They are teachers or administrators. They are employees of the school who choose to undertake rigorous training, the same training, that very same training that law enforcement in South Dakota must take. So, I don’t know if that’s the solution, but it’s one solution.”
The ideas of any governor or federal official should be explored, he added.
“We need to do something to stop this violence, prevent it, harden the schools where we can, arm those willing to be armed, if they can be trained and safely armed, or raise the age at which one can obtain weaponry,” the South Dakota governor added.
The National Rifle Association, Trump, and others have frequently used the term “harden” of schools to mean beef up security. It is also a military term used to describe a reinforced structure to protect a nuclear attack.
Some northeastern governors formed the “States for Gun Safety Coalition.” Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico will share background check information across state lines. The coalition also plans to establish a gun violence research consortium.
“Our states collectively already have better gun safety laws than the federal government, and by working together to share information and bolster enforcement, we will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and better protect our communities,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a public statement. “If the federal government refuses to act, we will work together to enact the important reforms families deserve, and I welcome these new states to our coalition.”