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Arm Teachers and Staff? Georgia Schools Say 'No,' Despite New Law Allowing It

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Georgia lawmakers who supported a sweeping gun law passed this year said a provision that allowed guns in schools would help to keep students safe. But administrators in the Peach State's schools have resisted that new authority, saying that arming teachers or other staff members would be ineffective and create more trouble than it's worth, the Associated Press reports.

The new law, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in April, is set to lift a number of firearms restrictions in schools, churches, bars, and government buildings when it goes into effect July 1. It will allow employees of public and private schools and higher education institutions to carry guns on campus with written permission from administrators. But, so far, no schools plan to take advantage of the new option. From the AP:

"The new law pulled Georgia education leaders into a Second Amendment discussion they say they never wanted.

School officials were quick to express their support for people who legally carry guns. But they were wary at the idea of weapons inside school buildings, despite the recent attack by an Oregon teen who killed a student and then himself at a school and the one-man rampage that left seven people dead in a California college town.

At least two Georgia district boards have publicly agreed not to create a program. Nobody asked for the power to arm staff, said Mark Scott, superintendent of the Houston County School District. Board members in the district were more comfortable relying on police officers stationed in its middle and high schools and upgrading building security, he said."

Following the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., state legislatures around the country proposed lifting restrictions on carrying weapons in school zones or creating special programs to arm school staff. Interest in such efforts continues, despite federal data that shows students are less likely to see fatal violence in school than outside of it.

Many educator groups, including the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, have said only police officers should carry weapons in schools. But armed guards or staff members may be an appropriate option for schools located far from law enforcement, Mike Dorn, executive director of the school safety center Safe Havens International, told the AP. And some rural schools in other states have said it's too costly to recruit, train, and retrain school-based officers.

The Council of State Governments details some of the new laws from states that allow limited carrying in schools:

  • An Alabama law specifically authorizes schools in Franklin County to form volunteer security teams and to detail plans for team members to have access to weapons.
  • An Arkansas law allows church-run schools to permit concealed carry on school grounds.
  • Under a Kansas law, school boards or superintendents can authorize employees with concealed-carry permits to carry on school grounds.
  • An Oklahoma law permits some authorized concealed carry on private school grounds.
  • A South Dakota law allows school boards to arm and train school employees, security staff, or volunteers as "school sentinels."
  • A Tennessee law allows school staff to carry a gun on school grounds with approval from the school board and the completion of an additional 40-hour training course.
  • A Texas bill created a new kind of law enforcement officer—a "school marshal"—who will be authorized to anonymously carry a firearm on school grounds after completing a special training course.
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