Last week's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., renewed calls for stricter gun laws, but it's also spurred a wave of advocates from the other side, many of whom say that guns are not the problem but a potential solution. State legislators around the country have endorsed the idea of allowing school employees to carry firearms as a way to prevent future mass murders, with a number of lawmakers saying they plan to introduce bills to that effect. In a press conference on Friday, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, proposed having an armed police officer in every school as a safety measure.
We reached out to HuffPost readers in some of the states where the idea of arming teachers has received political support, among them Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota. We heard from an impressive number of current and former teachers, administrators and other school employees. Most of the people who wrote to us voiced alarm at the idea of putting guns in faculty hands, although some said they think it has potential.
The responses below are from our readers in Oregon, where state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R) recently told a number of school superintendents that "our children's safety depends" on having armed personnel on campus.
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The idea of putting guns in trained hands found some favor among our readers in the Pacific Northwest. One parent wrote:
I want kids safe. I totally support allowing those teachers who choose to carry, and are trained, to carry guns in school.
From: An Oregon mother who doesn't want her child killed while going to school.
And a high school teacher in Portland said she's comfortable with weapons on campus -- but not with teachers being the ones to carry them...
I would lay down my life to protect my students. That is the social contract I agreed to when I took this job. But I already have too many responsibilities as a teacher. Hire someone else to carry a gun in my school.
...a sentiment that was echoed by a reader in Beaverton:
I do not think anyone should have a gun unless they have taken a gun course and passed it showing they are competent to own such a weapon. The certification should be renewed each year with a refresher course in gun operation and safety. [...]
I think a police officer should be employed at each school in the whole United States to protect our students and school staff. Teachers and staff are educators and should do just that. Police are trained in preventing crime and violence and should be on the premises ready for any incident that may occur.
Other readers took a different perspective. A community college instructor in Portland wrote to say:
The notion of teachers carrying guns is unbearable to me [...] A classroom is sacrosanct ground; a teacher who carries a gun would not be my choice for this profession. I work in a high-poverty community college and the crack of guns is often [heard] in the neighborhood, but the school is a sanctuary from that kind of violence and belief system that we need guns to kill each other. [I am] saddened beyond words that there is even such a thought.
A retired teacher in Salem gave a number of reasons why teachers shouldn't be asked to serve as an armed line of defense...
I was in the classroom for 32 years. My husband (a retired music teacher), my former superintendent and I had a long conversation on this very subject just last evening. None of us were in favor of teachers having guns in the classroom [...]
There are teachers who are not the most mentally stable or mature people in the world, just like in any other job. The possibility of having a teacher, somewhere in the state, holding up the gun as a threat to let kids know that they needed to change behavior in some way is almost certain [...]
There would need to be training and re-training, added to all the other in-service [workshops] that there's never enough time or money to accomplish. I have three state police officers in my family. They are repeatedly trained for deadly force confrontations. Once a year, or once every five years, would not be enough [...]
A teacher [would need to] get their gun out and head out in a Rambo way to confront the shooter. They would have to head out because if the shooter was to come into their classroom, [the teacher] would be the biggest target in the room, so the first dead, long before they could reach their desk and fumble with a key [...]
Let's say the police arrived and the person they saw with a gun was the teacher. The police are trained to shoot for body mass, not politely ask if the person with the gun is a teacher.
...an argument that we also heard from a former Marine, also in Salem.
Having teachers carry guns in schools is about the dumbest idea anyone has ever come up with.
That being said, let me clarify who I am. I'm not a teacher but a US Marine and Vietnam veteran. To train someone to pull a weapon out and use it to kill another person takes a lot. A lot of not caring about that person's life, a lot of training, just a lot more than what teachers want to do in their daily life [...]
This is from someone who is very glad he doesn't have to carry a gun anymore and have to shoot at another person.
Editor's note: Some letters have been edited for length and clarity.