Under Fire: Should teachers be armed?

    On both sides of the debate, there is agreement that the state’s current laws are good but could be better. The disagreement becomes apparent when the discussion moves to how those laws could be better. (WWMT/Denise Schermerhorn)

    Should teachers be allowed to carry guns while in the classroom? It’s a question school districts across the country are facing.

    President Donald Trump says yes. So do some Michigan lawmakers. So the Newschannel 3 I-Team sat down with four teachers from the Kalamazoo area. Teachers Robin Hansen-Church from Kalamazoo, Jen Aniano from Kalamazoo, Mike Sinclair from Kalamazoo and Dave Blough from Parchment agreed that arming teachers is not a good idea.

    “We’re not trained for that. I spent four years in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer, 12 years in the reserves, we trained a lot with weapons,” said Sinclair who has been a teacher for 30 years. “I know how they work (weapons). I know what they can do. Teachers don’t work under those constraints. It’s a whole different mindset. I just think it’s idiotic.”

    Although the Newschannel 3 I-team could not find a single teacher who would talk on-camera with us about the issue, some firearms instructors said they know teachers who are in favor of allowing teachers to carry in the classroom.

    One of those instructors is Jonathan Southwick. The U.S. Army veteran has owned a firearms store in Allegan County for several years. Back in March, Southwick offered 60 percent discounts on purchases for educators who wanted to take a concealed pistol license class. Southwick said the response was overwhelming.

    “We actually had to add a couple more classes. We did over 250 students in the month we offered,” Southwick said. “If there are teachers out there that have the capability and want to take protecting the kids one step further, why not?”

    Southwick is not alone in his thinking.

    Chris Salyer, a maritime enforcement specialist, is offering free firearms training to educators as part of “National Train A Teacher Day” on May 19. Salyer said he doesn’t believe every teacher should be forced to carry but those who want to carry should be able to.

    “I am not in favor, by any means, of arming all teachers,” Salyer said. “I think the biggest thing we can do legislatively is take away that restriction for people to be able to carry in these places that we see these active shooter situations.”

    Back in March, Michigan Rep. Jim Runestad of White Lake penned an op-ed for The Detroit News saying that arming teachers is part of the solution. When the I-Team called Runestad’s office this week to see how the bills he was working on to arm teachers were coming along, we were told they’re on hold for now. But school districts across the country are allowing teachers to be armed.

    In Butler County, Ohio, the Madison Local School District unanimously voted to allow teachers to be armed. Madison Junior-Senior High School was the scene of a school shooting two years ago.

    In Michigan, the Michigan Education Association has lambasted the idea and started a social media campaign called “ArmMeWith.” The campaign asks politicians to fund schools with counselors and basic essentials.

    “Arming teachers is not the answer and it’s not appropriate,” said Jen Aniano, a teacher at Kalamazoo’s Loy Norrix High School. “The appropriate response is giving us the support we need in schools so we can help children.”

    While many Michigan lawmakers support the idea of arming teachers, a bill that would make it legal has not been introduced in the state legislature just yet.

    Read more:

    Watch the special report at 5 and 11 p..m. Tuesday, May 8, 2018, on Newschannel 3, and return to WWMT.com.

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