After nearly a week of silence following the shootings in Newtown, pro-gun advocates have signaled in recent days that they plan to go on the offensive in pushing back against further restrictions on the Second Amendment.
And leading the charge are state legislators of both political parties who say the massacre last week means it is time to consider allowing teachers, principals, and school staff to start carrying firearms to work and tearing down those “Gun Free Zone” signs that now sit at the entrance of many schools across the country. Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states now say they plan to push legislation that would do just that in the coming year.
In Virginia, Bob Marshall, a Republican Delegate from Manassas, has proposed a bill that would require schools to designate a trained staff member to carry a firearm.
“In some public schools we already have uniformed officers who have guns,” he told The Daily Beast. “We don’t have a lot of money to take every [police officer] off the streets, but we have to be prudent and take some measures.”
Marshall said his bill would require those who bring guns to schools to meet state police standards in competency, and he disputed claims made by some in the press that his measure would force teachers and other school employees to carry guns against their will.
“You don’t take some 100-pound lady who doesn’t like guns and force them into doing. There are plenty of military personnel who are working in schools as teachers or administrators or in some other capacity,” he said.
The state, he noted, passed regulations a few years ago that would require someone on school campuses be able to administer an EpiPen (a medical device that administers epinephrine) in case a student has a bad allergic reaction. “This is the same level.”
And he accused those who would call the police to prevent an attack but were against arming teachers of being hypocrites.
“Liberals are the first ones to call 911 if they are under attack. Why do they do that? It is because they want someone with a gun there.
“Everybody is horrified by this event. I am trying to devise something here,” he added.
In North Carolina, Marcus Brandon, a state rep from Guilford County and a Democrat, said he favored stricter federal laws around guns, but also planned to introduce a bill that would allow schools to keep firearms on campus.
“The only way to stop an armed man is with another armed man,” he said. “I hate the thought of these school principals and administrators being sitting ducks. There has never been a case where an unarmed teacher or principal has been able to take down a gunman.”
If Brandon has his way, guns would be hidden somewhere on school property and put under lock and key; two or three administrators would be given a code that could only be activated during a campus lockdown.
Brandon admitted that he was “getting clocked by Democrats, and I am a Democrat,” but added that in the wake of Newtown, it was time to consider other approaches.
“We need to work on the culture piece, and the mental-health piece but we have been working on that stuff since the beginning of time. We have made it a felony to bring firearms on to campus, but I think we need to lift those bans. If you are willing to shoot your mother in the face you are lawless. You don’t pay attention to laws. I am just being realistic about it.”
The focus on making guns easier, rather than harder to access in the wake of Sandy Hook shooting isn’t a trend that is limited to the South. Lawmakers have proposed similar measures in Oklahoma, Nevada, South Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Florida. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell have signaled an openness to lifting bans that make schools gun-free zones.
Much of this thinking is spearheaded by John Lott, an economist who wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal 10 years ago that first broached the idea of arming teachers, and who has since written several books on the subject.
“I hope people begin to reconsider these things. I don’t know how anybody can ignore the fact that since at least 1950, with one exception, all the school shootings have occurred in places where guns were banned,” Lott said in an interview. “Let’s say that, God forbid, a violent criminal was stalking you and your family. Would you put a sign out that said ‘My home is a gun-free zone?’ Would that make you feel safe?”
The push comes just as the National Rifle Association plans to make its first public statement since the shooting, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday. In a statement announcing the press conference, the group sounded chastened, saying it was “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Gun lovers, though, were pushing the NRA not to cede any ground.
“The NRA is a political animal, and that being the case they are probably waiting to see which way the winds start to blow,” said Robert Butler, vice president of Grassroots Gun Rights South Carolina. “I would love to hear them say [on Friday] that virtually every mass shooting occurs in places where legally armed people cannot carry guns, that the situation is not to create victim disarmament zones. The solution is to empower the good guys to be able to defend themselves.”