SALT LAKE CITY — More than 200 Utah teachers are expected to pack a convention hall on Thursday for six hours of concealed-weapons training as organizers seek to arm more educators in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting.

The Utah Shooting Sports Council said it normally gathers a dozen teachers every year for instruction that's required to legally carry a concealed weapon in public places. The state's leading gun lobby decided to offer teachers the training at no charge to encourage turnout, and it worked.

Organizers who initially capped attendance at 200 were exceeding that number by Wednesday and scrambling to accommodate an overflow crowd.

"Schools are some of the safest places in the world, but I think teachers understand that something has changed – the sanctity of schools has changed," Clark Aposhian, one of Utah's leading gun instructors, said Wednesday. "Mass shootings may still be rare, but that doesn't help you when the monster comes in."

Gun-rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children from the kind of shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In Arizona, Attorney General Tom Horne has proposed amending state law to allow one educator in each school to carry a gun.

Educators say Utah legislators left them with no choice but to accept some guns in schools. State law forbids schools, districts or college campuses from trying to impose their own gun restrictions.

"We're not suggesting that teachers roam the halls for a monster," said Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council. "They should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooter comes in."

A major emphasis of the required safety training is that people facing deadly threats should announce they have a gun and retreat or take cover before trying to shoot, he said.

Utah is among few states that let people carry licensed concealed weapons into public schools without exception, the National Conference of State Legislatures says in a 2012 compendium of state gun laws.

Utah educators say they would ban guns if they could and have no way of knowing how many teachers are armed.

"It's a terrible idea," said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education, who argues teachers could be overpowered for their guns or misfire or cause an accidental shooting. "It's a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea."

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

    "I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)

    "If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)

    Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."

  • Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)

    State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.

  • Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)

    Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

    At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.

  • Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)

    Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.

  • Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)

    In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>

  • Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett

    "And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."