By Robert Kittle
A bill prefiled in the South Carolina House would let state teachers and other school employees carry guns at school, as long as they have concealed weapons permits and meet other restrictions.
Sponsor Rep. Phillip Lowe, R-Florence, says lawmakers started talking about the idea five years ago after the Virginia Tech massacre, but the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut are bringing more attention to the idea.
"Schools are gun-free zones right no," Lowe says. "So the deranged killers know they can go there and wreak the most havoc. If they think that it's possible that somebody may have a gun to defend themselves and the children, then maybe they'll choose not to come to a school."
He says the second advantage of the idea is that, if a gunman does go to a school, an armed teacher or other school employee could end a killing spree sooner by shooting the attacker. "I had a third grade teacher call me and she said she was willing and ready to defend her classroom if I could get this bill passed," he says.
Teachers would have to qualify as expert marksmen and could have no history of violence, and they would have to keep their guns concealed while at school. They would also have to notify their school districts that they're carrying.
Stella Parrish of Columbia was a school teacher and administrator for 40 years. She also has a concealed weapons permit, which she got for personal protection after she retired. She thinks having more guns in schools, other than those carried by school resource officers, is a terrible idea.
"We can't start, in my view, taking on the outside world. We have to run a school. We are there to educate children and this problem's got to be handled from the outside," she says.
Even though she had to demonstrate proficiency on the firing range to get her concealed weapons permit, she says there's a big difference between firing a gun on a range and using one against an armed attacker shooting up a school. "There have been shots fired at perpetrators by police officers who are trained and innocent people were injured, if not killed," she says.
Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, is also a concealed weapons permit holder who says he's a big defender of the Second Amendment. "We need to make sure that our children are safe in those schools, maybe adding additional resource officers and such. However, arming teachers is an asinine idea," he says.
"God forbid something does happen and teachers are armed and police come in and law enforcement come in, they don't know who to shoot. They don't know who's the good and who's the bad," he says.
State lawmakers in at least nine other states are talking about introducing similar legislation, or have already.