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SWFL schools reject arming teachers with guns


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SWFL schools reject arming teachers with guns

By Matt Grant. CREATED Dec 19, 2012

FORT MYERS - Should your kids' teacher be allowed to pack heat?

In Missouri, state lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow teachers with a conceal and carry permit to bring a gun to class. Southwest Florida educators say that's a "terrible" idea.

After last week's shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., some say teachers should be armed.

"Hearing the heroic stories of the principal lunging trying to protect, I wish to God she had an M4 in her office locked up," said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex). "So when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she wouldn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes his head off before he could kill those precious kids."

The idea is being met with a swift backlash among southwest Florida schools.

"Two words: Unmitigated disaster," said Charlotte County Schools spokesman Mike Riley.

Riley says the district rejects the idea of arming teachers.

"It would be difficult to take a teacher who's profession is teaching," said Riley, "and turn them into basically a law enforcement officer with a weapon."

Instead, Riley says the district is looking at other ways to tighten security. The district's 10 elementary schools only share two school resource officers. According to Riley, there is now talk of putting an armed SRO in every school.

"That's something we feel would be a good thing," said Riley. "And that's something the district is looking at."

The head of the Lee County teachers' union also criticized any attempt to allow teachers to bring guns to class.

"I cannot fully express how horrified I am," said Mark Castellano, "that people would make that suggestion at this time."

Castellano expects the issue to come up in the Florida legislature. He says he will fight any attempt at allowing teachers to arm themselves in school.

"I challenge any legislator or any representative of the NRA," said Castellano, "to go to Newtown, Conn., and look these people in the eye and tell them more guns is the answer."

Lee County school board member Don Armstrong, who is a gun owner, says he has "mixed feelings" about the idea to let teachers bring guns to class.

Fox 4 asked the Collier County School District if they would support letting teachers bring guns to school. They did not answer the question.

"We are fortunate to have a high visibility of armed law enforcement officers servicing all of our schools in Collier County," said District Spokeswoman Leanne Zinser. "However, we continue to assess our safety plans and procedures to determine any further needs or enhancements."  

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott declined to weigh in on the issue.

Matt Grant