Politics & Government

NC 'School Self-Defense Act' would let teachers carry handguns in school

North Carolina teachers and other school employees would be allowed to carry handguns on campus "to respond to acts of violence or an imminent threat of violence" under a bill filed Wednesday in the state legislature.

The "School Self-Defense Act" would create a "volunteer school faculty guardian" program where school employees would have permission to carry firearms on school grounds. The armed employees would have to meet requirements such as having a valid concealed carry handgun permit and completing 16 hours of active shooter training.

The primary sponsors of House Bill 1039 are two Republican lawmakers: Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County and Rep. Michael Speciale of Craven County. Pittman has been vocal about letting teachers carry guns in the aftermath of national school shootings such as the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

"We should give them a fighting chance," Pittman wrote in an April email to state lawmakers urging them to recommend arming teachers. "Otherwise, when they die, and children die whom they could have defended, their blood will be on our hands. I cannot accept that. I hope you will think this through and find that you cannot accept it, either."

This new legislation comes after three Republican state legislators filed a bill in the Senate last week that would set aside $9 million for the "School Security Act of 2018. " It would offer a 5 percent salary boost to up to 3,000 teachers who complete the state's training programs and become school resource officers. A school resource officer is a certified law enforcement officer who is assigned to provide coverage to a school or a set of schools.

State Republican legislative leaders have not indicated they would act on legislation that lets teachers be armed. It's not among the school safety items included in the new state budget.

Arming teachers has been an idea recommended by some people, including President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, since the Parkland shooting.

In his April email, Pittman contended that arming teachers "is the most practical, common sense, and constitutionally sound proposal of all." He wrote that polls show that between 20 percent and 30 percent of North Carolina teachers are willing to take on the responsibility.

Twenty-five percent of North Carolina teachers surveyed said “yes” or “maybe” to carrying a gun in their classroom if they were allowed to do so, according to an Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll.

But in that same survey, 78 percent of educators said it was a bad idea to arm teachers. Even if guns are limited to a small number of teachers who received specialized training, 69 percent in the survey were still opposed.

Instead of arming teachers, students who've participated in marches and rallies around the nation have called for passing tougher gun control laws.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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