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Guns in schools? Sandy Hook rekindles hot debate on arming teachers. (+video)

Across the country, some argue that an armed teacher could have prevented the Sandy Hook massacre. But others say having guns in schools heightens the risk of other tragedies.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / December 20, 2012

Students Zoe Bell (l.) and her sister, Sophie, join Los Angeles area clergy, religious leaders and citizens in an interfaith candlelight prayer vigil to end gun violence outside Los Angeles City Hall, Wednesday, Dec. 19. Instead of trying to get rid of guns to prevent school violence, Texas state legislators and pro-gun advocates nationally want to allow teachers and administrators who are trained and licensed to carry weapons in the classroom.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

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Newtown, Conn.

Imagine this: Instead of blasting his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and killing 26 students and staff without anyone to stop him, Adam Lanza runs into a teacher or supervisor with a gun. Mr. Lanza is killed or incapacitated, and a massacre is averted.

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A bill that would arm teachers with guns is being proposed in the state of Missouri.

This scenario is what some Texas state legislators and pro-gun advocates nationally are arguing for in the wake of the tragedy. Instead of trying to get rid of guns to prevent school violence, they want to allow teachers and administrators who are trained and licensed to carry weapons in the classroom.

A host of Texas legislators say they will introduce legislation to allow gun-toting teachers in the Lone Star State. US Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) of Texas told Chris Wallace on Fox News last Sunday he wished the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School had a weapon.

"Chris, 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."

A bill to allow guns in schools passed the Michigan Legislature the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, but was vetoed by the governor; Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says it ought to be discussed; and conservative commentator Bill Bennett, a former Education secretary, talking about the idea on “Meet the Press” last weekend, said, “But, my God, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think – I think – I think we ought to.”

The issue has sparked a hot debate. Those in favor say allowing teachers to arm themselves gives them a fighting chance. They argue that police can’t watch all the entrances to schools, so another tragedy is just a matter of time.

Those opposed say it sends the wrong message to the students – that getting into a gun fight is the way to resolve the issue. In addition, children might get hurt in any gun battle. And, they ask, what happens when police arrive on the scene and see someone in the classroom holding a gun? The police won’t know if it’s a teacher or an intruder and will just shoot, possibly killing the teacher.

“I’ve been involved with education my whole life, and I can’t imagine any circumstances where it can be done in a safe and reasonable way,” says Dr. Robert Villanova, director of the executive leadership program at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “It’s hard enough to get teachers to lock their doors.”

Dr. Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents, worries that guns in the classroom could lead to unfortunate accidents.

“There is a risk the teacher sees a student and thinks the student has a gun,” says Dr. Cirasuolo, who has been involved with education since 1964. “The teacher shoots the student, and it turns out it’s not a gun.”

Cirasuolo, formerly the CEO of the American Association of School Administrators, thinks that over 90 percent of his colleagues in education would prefer not to be armed. “I know people who are hunters, and they would not think of teachers as carrying weapons around the school.”

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