The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 17, 2013

State lawmaker favors arming teachers

— State Rep. Greg Lucas is in his first term as a lawmaker, but he comes to the job as a former teacher, a gun enthusiast and a resident of a town that experienced a school-related shooting a little over a decade ago.

So, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, Lucas, R-Edinboro, said that while he supports a variety of moves intended to boost school security, arming teachers ought to be part of the mix.

Lucas is the prime sponsor of legislation that would protect the right of teachers to carry concealed weapons in school as long as they submit to background checks and undergo the same sort of firearms handling training provided to law enforcement personnel.

Lucas is the former mayor of Edinboro and has been an instructor, coach and recruiter for the National Rifle Association.

In 1998 in Edinboro, a student arrived at a middle school dance at an off-school property with a pistol and began shooting. Three people were hit, including teacher John Gillette who died from his injuries.

A restaurant owner armed with a shotgun confronted the shooter and held him for 11 minutes until police arrived.

Lucas describes Gillette, the slain teacher, as a friend, and notes that he comes to this issue as not only a former teacher himself, but also the spouse of a teacher and the son of teachers.

Lucas said arming teachers is a measure that would augment other efforts to boost security.

“I’m all for resource officers,” Lucas said. “There isn’t enough money to go around and there are not enough resource officers.”

Under Lucas’ legislation, teachers would have to obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons and then take classes in safe weapons handling. But the proposed legislation would bar school districts from prohibiting teachers from carrying a weapon as long as they comply with rules spelled out in the bill.

Schools would be allowed to set guidelines regarding how the weapon is stored and transported to school.

There are already 18 states in the U.S. that allow teachers to carry firearms.

Lucas’ bill would require that educators obtain concealed carry certificates and undergo training for 15 hours a week for three months.

Because of the training requirement, Lucas said he does not believe the legislation would inspire many teachers to seek the right to carry weapons in school. But if a handful of teachers in each school begin to carry weapons, that would help overcome any limitations in school security if school districts are unable to fund enough school resource police officers.

Lucas noted that of the six school districts in his legislative district, only two have police officers in the schools. Even those districts with resource officers typically only have one or two to cover multiple school buildings.

Lucas’ legislation has been referred to the House Education Committee, but it was introduced with nine other co-sponsors including Rep. Bradley Roae, R-Meadville, and Rep. C. Adam Harris, R-Mifflintown.

Roae said he has had numerous conversations with constituents who support the idea of allowing teachers to carry guns.

“You don’t hear about mass shootings in areas where there are guns,” Roae said.

“Mass shootings take place in areas where guns are prohibited.”

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said the group has no formal position on the question of arming teachers, though the statewide group believes it is a decision best made locally.

But PSBA staff members suggest that any school district considering arming teachers ought to give the plan a serious and careful review to ensure that the risks have been adequately addressed.

“I think most of our members would say that teachers and administrators are there to educate children” and that carrying firearms should be limited to school resource officers.

The school boards association spokesman pointed to a recent survey of teachers by the National Education Association that found that nearly 70 percent oppose arming teachers, including 61 percent who said they strongly disagree with the idea.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Flower2 Flowers' color doesn't have to fade

    Those pots of bright yellow daffodils, Easter lilies and hyacinths gracing the home this weekend do not have to end up in the trash bin when the blooms start to fade.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Refinancing could lower Richland School District's debt by $2.2M

    When Richland School District borrowed funds for its high school project a decade ago, board members circled “2014” on their calendars as a likely first option to refinance the debt.

    April 20, 2014

  • Pipeline to carry shale byproducts

    An 8-inch transmission line crossing Pennsylvania, including four municipalities in Cambria County, is being repurposed to carry some of the by-products from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

    April 20, 2014

  • Judge Creany, Timothy Vets courts gain support

    Signs of success are mostly anecdotal in Pennsylvania’s special courts for veterans, but judicial officials and lawmakers are so convinced of the program, they’re lobbying to expand it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • pow21 Person of the Week: ‘I wanted to help’: Teen uses birthday to show love for children, animals

    Anastasia Machik’s love for children and animals inspired her to forgo her birthday gifts for the sake of the two.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse

    An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.

    April 20, 2014

  • In brief: PennDOT reports weekly work schedule

    April 20, 2014

  • District Deaths April 21, 2014

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads