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City OKs handgun safety course for teachers
Jan 16, 2013 4:00 pm
MT. JULIET – City officials made it easier for teachers to learn gun safety Monday night.
City commissioners approved a resolution to waive all fees for teachers who are city residents and wish to attend an upcoming police handgun safety course. County teachers would pay $25 and out-of-county teachers $50. The vote was 3-2 with Ray Justice and Jim Bradshaw voting no.
Mayor Ed Hagerty and Vice Mayor James Maness penned the resolution in the wake of the December massacre of 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
While currently Wilson County schools are a "gun free zone," Hagerty and Maness want teachers to be able to learn how to handle a gun in the event the state legislature allows them to arm themselves at school.
Maness said there are studies that show the security of citizens is enhanced when even a small number of citizens are trained and have a handgun carry permit.
"The security of students in schools would be enhanced if teachers who had received appropriate training and who had obtained a handgun carry permit were allowed to keep a handgun with them..." the resolution said.
Maness said the resolution encompasses both private and public school teachers.
"Right now, this resolution just offers the handgun course free of charge for some school teachers," said Maness. "This does not change anything the Tennessee state legislature plans to do about this issue of teachers being allowed to carry a registered gun. But, I hope the current laws will be changed to remove any obstacles now in place for teachers to defend themselves."
Maness said he wants to offer any teacher interested a chance to take the course.
"Right now there is no option. There's a sign on the door that says 'gun free zone'" said Maness. "I think teachers need the option to defend themselves. I have a problem telling someone they can't defend themselves if something happens in their school. I want to know I did everything I can to at least give them a fighting chance. It would be a personal choice, and the state laws have to change."
Maness said "it's only a gun-free zone for the non-criminals."
He said there's a lot of talk at the state Capitol to give local schools systems the option to allow teachers to carry a gun to work.
"We pay teachers money to educate children," said Justice. "We don't pay them to be police officers in the schools. I believe in the 2nd Amendment's opportunity to have a handgun permit. The State Legislature doesn't allow guns in schools. We don't need to put that message out."
Justice is a Wilson County deputy. He said there were many "logistical" issues involving active shooters in school.
“I personally think this would create a whole new set of security issues," he said.
He said he was not impeding training, but to put untrained people in places with weapons would "make them targets."
"Eight hours of training is nothing," he said.
Bradshaw also was against the measure.
"I think this is mixed messages," said Bradshaw. "I think a gun safety class is good, but I don't want the impression we are giving teachers permission to take a gun to school."
He said he would be "ashamed to impede [teachers] and not let them defend themselves."
"They should at least be able to get the training," he said.
Commissioner Art Giles' wife is principal at W.A. Wright Elementary School. He gave a scenario where his wife responded to an alarm at the school.
"What if I had not been with her," he said. "I don't know if somebody could be waiting."
Hagerty reiterated a story about a Newtown, Conn. nurse who hid under a desk and saw the shooter's legs, then managed to hide in a closet for four hours.
"That was one person who should be out helping kids," he said. "As a rational thinker, if she had been trained or prepared and had a weapon she could have shot the guy in the knee, and maybe innocent lives would have been spared."
The Mt. Juliet Police Department's handgun safety course is eight hours of training that also involves training on the gun range. The normal cost of the course is $50 for city residents, $75 for Wilson County residents and $100 for those out-of-county. Teachers will be given a $50 credit and can apply for the class when space opens.