A new state legislative committee may consider arming North Carolina teachers in the aftermath of last week’s mass school shooting in Florida.
House Speaker Tim Moore announced Tuesday that he’s forming a new school safety committee that will be charged with developing recommendations for how to improve safety in the state’s schools. During a press conference Tuesday in Shelby, a reporter asked Moore if the committee will consider arming school faculty. Moore said the committee will look at a myriad of issues and get feedback from school districts and law enforcement.
“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to come in saying we’re going to do these particular things,” said Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, home to Shelby. “The process of this committee is to truly get that input.
“We want to hear what the local school districts want to do on that. What does law enforcement believe is appropriate on that because right now it’s the law enforcement officers who are stationed in schools right now who are the front line of defense if something like this would happen.”
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Last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old former student is charged with killing 14 students and three adults, has sparked calls for tougher gun control laws. That was the message from students who planned to march on the State Capitol in Raleigh on Tuesday.
But the shooting has led some gun-rights supporters to advocate for the training and arming of school personnel. NBC News has reported that 18 states allow teachers to carry firearms on campus.
Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Cabarrus County near Charlotte, told other legislators on Thursday that he recently met with a police officer who wants to talk with lawmakers about training school personnel and allowing them to carry guns on campus.
“We have to get over this useless hysteria about guns and allow school personnel to have a chance to defend their lives and those of their students,” Pittman said during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee.
Pittman is not among the 41 members on the new bipartisan committee.
Having more guns on campus is not the way to make schools safer, according to Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. She said steps such as “common-sense gun laws” and parents doing a better job of safeguarding guns and ammunition from their children would achieve more.
“One of the best ways to keep schools safe is to leave them as the way they are,” Ceartas said. “Teachers are there to teach and serve as role models. They’re not law enforcement.”
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In the wake of the Florida shootings, school districts around the country have worked to reassure families that they’re taking school safety seriously. It’s similar to what happened when parents and students became worried in 2012 after the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
“Schools should be a place where children are there free to learn and be free of fear,” Moore said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to make sure that North Carolina schools are the safest in the country.”
Moore and the two committee co-chairmen, Reps. David Lewis and John Torbett, said the group will look at a range of issues including school discipline practices, the physical safety of school buildings and mental health services.
“This is not a pro-gun committee,” said Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County. “This is not an anti-gun committee. This is a committee looking at the safety and security of our children in school.”
President Trump held a listening session with Florida high school shooting survivors and their parents on Feb. 21. Parents of Sandy Hook victims and Columbine also attended.