I sent my letter to the two authors of the bill to allow teachers to carry weapons, and I cced it to all members of the Common Education Committees of the Oklahoma House and Senate. I also sent a copy to MY Representative; my Senator is a member of the Education Committee. I received three responses...from my Senator, a thanks, from one other member a thank you note. And from Representative Donnie Condit, I received the following note. I include my response to him. I realize I sent my note during Winter Break, but I hope more legislators choose to respond.
First, I want to thank you for your input. I am a member of the House Common Educ Committee. I'm also a retired educator with over thirty years experience in the McAlester public schools. My wife is also a kindergarten teacher with thirty-two years experience.
If you do some research on the members of the State House of Representatives, I think you will be surprised how many are former educators. I mention this knowing that all of them are very much concerned about safety in our schools. When I was a building administrator, I would tell teachers and parents that my main concern was students safety. I believe that children cannot learn if they are concerned about their safety.
If you would also do some research on individuals with concealed carry permits, I think you will find that there are about 140,000 individuals in Oklahoma with a permit. It is estimated that over 10,000 teachers already have a concealed carry permit. I will never vote for a bill requiring anyone to carry a weapon. If I understand the proposed legislation correctly, it would be volunteer. If an administrator or teacher feels comfortable carrying a weapon, I believe that we should at least look at and discuss the possibility of allowing them. Many years ago legislation was passed making it against the law to have guns on school campuses. This was intended, back then, to prevent guns on campuses. The sad thing about it, now people (with mental disorders) see it as "open" game. They know that (by law) there should not be any resistance. I personally do not like guns on campuses either, but are we in a way putting our school officials at a disadvantage? Another thought, if you place armed police officers in each building, the shooter will know that if they take the officer out first, then they will have no resistance.
I do agree with you that Oklahoma and all states need to start treating mental illness like another illness and get people help.
Again, thanks for the input and good luck with the rest of hour school year.
Dist 18 State Rep
And my response
Thank you for your response...your prompt, thoughtful response. I so often find our Legislators do not respond to our concerns. I know several other Legislators who are former educators, and I hope they, as you, help get our voice out there.
I was under the impression that the bill as it's drafted now will require CLEET training...as someone who does not own a gun or has any interest in carrying one, I'm not certain if the training for concealed or open carry are the same as the CLEET training. Others have told me that this training is more involved and demanding.
I am not at all comforted by the thought of my colleagues carrying weapons, concealed or not, into their classrooms. The parents I've talked to feel the same. What will your answer be to parents who threaten to homeschool their children rather than have them exposed to teachers carrying guns? I am concerned about the parents who will desert us. I know you'll say there are parents who will feel MORE secure with professional educators carrying weapons...so I don't have an answer. I hope your committee will ask for input from parents across the state, as well as educators. This is our workplace, and many of us feel guns will destabilize already stressful situations.
You mention a security officer who would not be available or a target in an attack. My school has over a hundred classrooms. There is no guarantee that a deranged crazy person with a gun is going to randomly pick an armed teacher's room to attack. And, again, since I know so little about guns, how can a teacher armed with a hand gun stand a chance against a gunman with the kind of weapon Adam Lanza used? To suggest the teacher stands a chance is nonsense. An FBI agent who was interviewed immediately after Newtown strongly recommended NOT arming teachers. He talked about the reaction time of the person who would be the target opposed to the original shooter. He said reaction time always lags 5 or so seconds behind action time. In those five seconds, children could be killed in a deadly gunfight...
IF this does become law, I hope the liability issues are resolved. I see this as a nightmare for our state in so many ways.
I hope you will solicit input from parents and educators as this goes forward.
I am not convinced armed educators will make the classrooms safer. I fear they will create new stress for all...
Again, thank you so much for talking to me. I tell my students I'm always eager to learn...to consider other people's points of view and test them against my own. Your note has helped me think through this.