State senator wants teachers to carry guns

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There are increasing calls across the country and here in Indiana to give local schools to allow teachers to carry guns.

State Senator Jim Tomes says teachers are closest to students, the first responders to any emergency and, for those reasons, should be armed.

"We wouldn't want to mandate it, but we would certainly like them to have the option. To carry guns? To carry their firearms with them in those circumstances, absolutely," he said.

The Republican senator from Evansville is among a growing number of state and local officials across the country advocating arming school teachers and administrators. It's a prospect St. Louis schools and the county's police chief are discussing.

"How else can you protect these kids, short of arming officials in the school?" asked Chief Tim Fitch.

In the Newtown, Connecticut and other mass shootings, some officials argue well-trained, armed educators could have stopped or minimized the carnage in the time it took police to arrive.

"You can't arm a teacher with a whistle or a cell phone when you have a person who has a firearm that's willing to commit these kinds of crimes," Tomes explained.

He hopes discussion and debate leads to legislation allowing schools to arm their teachers. But there are numerous concerns.

There is the issue of liability, keeping guns safely out of the hands of children and training educators to use a handgun, training that goes well beyond knowing how to shoot straight.

"Handguns are notoriously inaccurate weapons, even in the hands of the most skilled person," said school safety consultant Chuck Hibbert.

Hibbert, a former Indiana state trooper worries about teachers, pointing guns in crowed hallways in the chaos of a crisis.

"There is just a whole lot of issues with teachers having guns and shooting them in the confined spaces of a school building," he said..

The Senate deadline for filing bills has come and gone, but Tomes hopes there is enough interest and debate to amend an existing proposal to include provisions for arming teachers.

Opponents are already lining up. The president of Indiana State Teacher's Association, Nate Schnellenberger, tells Eyewitness News, "I don't think the proliferation of guns in schools would be in the best interest of students."