Should teachers be armed?
Should parents with conceal carry permits be allowed to bring guns into schools?
Would it give a school under siege by an armed lunatic a fighting chance or would it lead to more violence?
These are the questions being asked in Michigan, where the Legislature passed a bill last week — over the protests of the state’s school boards — that would allow concealed weapons in schools. Under the bill — now on the governor’s desk — citizens of Michigan who hold concealed weapons permits could bring firearms into schools, stadiums or churches, if they underwent additional training.
Supporters contend the law could help prevent another Newtown massacre.
Proponents of the legislation said if the bill is signed into law, it will give people the opportunity to respond to crimes and possibly stop a similar situation. “This kind of tragedy is hard to process, but if one person – a faculty member or a parent – could legally carry, at least it could have limited some of the mayhem,” said Rob Harris, media director for Michigan Open Carry Inc., on Friday. “This legislation has to be passed to at least have a fighting chance against the evil in this world.”
The Michigan Legislature passed Senate Bill 59 on Thursday, which tweaks the concealed weapons law by allowing gun owners who receive eight additional hours of training to carry their weapons in formerly gun-free areas, such as day care centers, schools, hospitals, churches and stadiums and bars.
There about 350,000 concealed pistol license holders throughout the state who would be eligible for the additional training, Harris said. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, also states that schools, including public universities, and privately owned buildings could choose to prohibit guns if owners desire.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners also backed the legislation. Green is a member of the organization’s board. “We were fully behind it because what happens when you disarm law abiding people is there is nobody to stop the crazy people,” said Steve Dulan, spokesman for the organization.
Dulan said most gun owners are responsible. “Many gun owners take their guns with them to the shopping mall where there are kids,” Dulan said. “Schools will be no different than shopping malls.”
It is unclear if Gov. Rick Snyder will sign the bill into law. “The governor said that this bill was going to be already going through a careful review and analysis,” said Snyder’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel.
The American Federation of Teachers opposes the law, and explains why in this letter:
Dear Gov. Snyder:
On behalf of the 1.5 million members of the American Federation of Teachers, including the 35,000 members of AFT Michigan, we ask you to veto Senate Bill 59, which would rewrite Michigan’s gun laws to permit persons to bring concealed firearms into schools, college dorms, churches, hospitals, bars and sports stadiums.
Firearms have absolutely no place in our schools—the Dec. 14th tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is a chilling and heartbreaking reminder of this. Twenty innocent young children have been robbed of their lives, many shot multiple times. Six public servants, who were trying to save these children, were murdered in an environment that should be considered a safe sanctuary for students, educators and school visitors.
We’ve witnessed other horrendous tragedies in our lifetime involving gunfire at schools and universities with devastating consequences — 32 innocent people cut down at Virginia Tech, 16 murdered at the University of Texas at Austin, and 13 students and faculty executed at Columbine High School.
Permitting firearms in schools — visible or concealed — enables a dangerous set of circumstances that can result in similar tragic outcomes. We should be doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.
Gov. Snyder, please show the kind of leadership that students, families, educators and community members need to be as safe as possible in their schools. You can set an example for Michigan and the nation by taking this small but significant step to reduce gun violence by vetoing S.B. 59.
Randi Weingarten, President
David Hecker, President, American Federation of Teachers AFT Michigan
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog