Lawmaker wants Pa.  teachers to be armed

Lawmaker wants Pa.  teachers to be armed

(Pa.) A Pennsylvania lawmaker is pushing for his state to become the eighth in the nation allowing public school teachers to carry guns to work.

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana, Pa.) has proposed a bill that would allow school districts to permit their staff, upon licensure and certification, to carry firearms on campus. White says his goal is to provide a potential safety net for rural schools where minimum police response times can be 25 minutes.

 “For those unfamiliar with firearms and the training to ensure their proper use, I can understand why their immediate reaction to Senate bill 1193 is to envision dozens of John Wayne wannabes strolling the halls of our schools with a six-gun on their side,” White said at a committee hearing last week.

“The reality is that Senate bill 1193 is structured in a matter that ensures proper controls are in place in any of our 400 school districts that choose to implement it.”

Nearly half of all states allow adults to carry guns in public schools, though each has different restrictions; seven have laws specifically permitting teachers to do so.

The legislation was inspired by the mass stabbing at a Pittsburgh-area high school earlier this year where a student stabbed 21 people in the halls with two kitchen knives. Police responded in about two-and-a-half minutes, with the entire ordeal lasting nearly five, but it led White to question response times to the state’s rural campuses, and whether an armed teacher could have prevented so much injury.

Specifically, the bill would let school boards establish policies permitting school personnel to carry concealed firearms so long as they have a license to do so and maintain certification, as determined by the state’s police commissioner, in the use and handling of their weapon.

Many have expressed concern that no amount of weapons training can adequately prepare a teacher to respond appropriately to a spontaneous attack, or to handle the repercussions of deciding to fire a gun. Some concerns include:

  • How a teacher would react if it was a student who pulled out a weapon, and not an outside intruder;
  • What they might do if it was one of their students; or
  • The likelihood that they may miss and hit an innocent student.

Or, what if a gun accidentally goes off as one did in Utah, where those with concealed-weapons permits can carry guns in public schools? Just two weeks ago, a sixth-grade teacher’s gun fired into a toilet, shattering it and injuring the teacher.

While some parents and educators prefer gun-free campuses, others have suggested hiring armed security guards, who must go through more training than would a teacher.

Of the states that currently allow teachers to carry concealed weapons, none require the teacher to notify their principals, other teachers, students or parents – so there’s no way to calculate how many teachers opt to carry a firearm with them to school.

White said he doesn’t expect that every campus will have a teacher that carries a gun, but he still wants them to have the choice.

“I just want to give (the schools) all the opportunity and as many tools as possible to protect our children,” he said.