The perception of schools as sanctuaries from violence has been "blown up" by recent events and some believe it's time for educators to literally take the situation into their own hands and carry guns.
"We've had this unwritten code, even among criminals, that schools are off limits. Those are our kids. You don't mess with that," Utah Shooting Sports Council (USSC) Chairman Clark Aposhian told ABCNews.com today.
"That perception has been blown away now," he said. "It's been shattered and if there's one thing that parents across the country are united on, it's that they are committed to and serious about protecting their kids."
Aposhian spoke shortly before opening a weapons training class for teachers and school employees that drew more than 200 Utah educators organized by the USSC, a leading gun lobby group that believes that teachers should be able to fight back when faced with an armed intruder.
"One firearm in the hands of one teacher could have made the difference at Sandy Hook or Columbine, but they weren't allowed to carry in those schools," Aposhian said.
The USSC is waiving its normal $50 training fee today for teachers who wish to attend. Aposhian said the 200 person course was filled to capacity and said he plans on holding another session for people he may have to turn away today.
"We trust these teachers to be with our kids for 8 to 10 hours a day every day," Aposhian said. "I don't think it's a far reach to think that we could think that they would act responsibly and with decorum in protecting their own lives and the lives of the kids under their care."
The idea of armed teachers has been part of a fiery debate on gun control following the rampage at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead on Dec. 14.
Utah is one of only a handful of states, including Oregon, Hawaii and New Hampshire, that allow people to carry licensed concealed weapons into public schools. It is not known how many Utah teachers carry guns in public schools because the records are not public.
But Aposhian said that he tells detractors that Utah has not had any school shootings or accidental shootings in the approximately 12 years the law has been in effect.
In Ohio, the Buckeye Firearms Association is launching a pilot armed teacher training program in which 24 teachers will be selected to attend a three-day training class.
Arizona's Attorney General Tom Horne has proposed a state law amendment that would allow one educator in each school to carry a gun.
During today's six-hour training session, the educators will be taught about gun safety, loading and unloading, manipulating the firearm, how to clear malfunctions, use of force laws and state and federal firearm laws.
The training sessions normally draw about 15 to 20 people, Aposhian said, but many of the teachers who have signed up for today have expressed strong feelings about attending the class.
"I think it runs the gamut from passive desire to get a permit because they thought about it here and there to a fervor given the recent events," Aposhian said. "Perhaps they've had an epiphany of sorts and realized that that sanctuary they work in, or at least the perceived sanctuary, isn't all that safe."
The Utah State Board of Education Chair Debra Roberts released the following statement today on the matter:
"The Utah State Board of Education expresses sympathy to all involved in the recent school shooting in Connecticut. In the face of this terrible tragedy, as schools move forward in taking measures to ensure the safety of students and school personnel, we urge caution and thoughtful consideration."
The statement noted that its schools have emergency plans to handle such situations.
Carol Lear, the board's director of school law and legislation, was more blunt about Aposhian's gun training, telling the Associated Press, "It's a terrible idea...It's a horrible, no-good, rotten idea."
Teachers Flock to Gun Training Class
The gun rights advocacy group insists that teachers are the first responders and last line of defense in the critical first minutes of a situation when law enforcement is still on their way.
"Law enforcement show up with lots of weapons, lots of manpower, lots of equipment. The only problem is you can't make up for being there too late with more guns," Aposhian said. "You can mitigate the situation by having even one gun there at the right time in the hands of people who actually are responding first, which would be the teachers, the principals, the staff and the faculty."
The group insists that they are not arming teachers or suggesting they take to the hallways in search for the shooter. They expect educators to follow school lockdown procedures and insist the use of a weapon would be a last resort to protect themselves and their students.
Aposhian said he recognizes that there are many options for dealing with the problem of school shootings, but he believes that arming adults in schools is a necessary component of any viable option.
"You could put armed guards in the school if that's an option, but the option of responding to an active shooter by hiding behind a desk? That is clearly not a good option anymore," he said.
- Politics & Government