Little support at Vt. Statehouse for arming teachers

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Should school teachers carry guns to protect students? The president thinks they should, but the governor and Vermont educators say it's a bad idea.

President Donald Trump appears to be moving forward with training and arming teachers to carry firearms in schools. The White House is exploring how to make it happen. It's an idea the president has floated since the mass school shooting in Florida a month ago.

Hardwick Elementary sixth-grade teacher Will Adams says it's a bad idea. "It doesn't strike me as a very serious response to what is a very serious problem," he said. He says the country needs to address a culture of violence, and allow educators to focus on the jobs they were trained to do. "We didn't become educators to be armed security guards."

Details of the president's plan are scant, but Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott isn't interested. "I just don't see it happening in Vermont, to be honest with you," Scott said. He says it's not good policy. He's ordered school safety audits this month to find vulnerabilities. He's also working with lawmakers on reforming some gun laws. Scott says the federal government can't force local communities to allow armed teachers. "I'm not sure they can just unilaterally do that without some acceptance by the districts."

That's good news for Brian Ricca, Superintendent of Montpelier Schools. "I'm really scared, honestly. I don't want more weapons in our building. I want less," he said.

An alleged bank robber, brandishing what turned out to be a BB gun, was shot by police on the grounds of Montpelier High School in Mid January. Ricca says police responded appropriately, but his students are forever changed. "They've been through it. They're like the Parkland students. They've had their entire educational experience shaped by the fact that school shootings are part of the landscape," Ricca said.

He says he favors maintaining the armed school resource officer and wants lawmakers to focus on other ways to protect students. "I need elected officials to help with that. It's no longer a case of just doing lock-down drills," he said.

It's illegal under state law to bring a gun on school grounds or on to a school bus. But gun rights advocate Evan Hughes says the law allows anyone who is a certified part-time police officer to carry on campus."If the school and the teacher are willing to do that, then that option exists," Hughes said.

There are not proposals in the Legislature to arm teachers here in Vermont, and from the sounds of it, there won't be much support if legislation is drafted.