Mich. Lawmaker Wants to Arm Educators

Proposal would let specially trained teachers carry concealed guns on campus.


Sept. 11, 2007 — -- Anyone other than a member of law enforcement who carries a gun into a Michigan school right now is breaking the law and, according to one freshman lawmaker, likely intent on harming students, faculty and staff.

And there are horrific examples to illustrate Rep. David Agema's point: 32 shot dead on the Virginia Tech campus in April, five girls shot to death at an Amish school in Lancaster County, Pa., in 2006 and 13 people gunned down at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

With precisely those school rampages in mind — as well as the notion that Islamic extremists may start targeting American academic institutions — Agema has filed a controversial bill that would allow gun-owning faculty and staff with proper training and permits to pack concealed pistols inside a school or on school property.

Agema, a Republican from outside Grand Rapids, introduced the bill this month with the support of 15 Republican sponsors.

"What motivated me to do this is a form of disaster preparedness," Agema told ABC News. "To me, it's about safety for kids first. I just think we have to have something like this if something starts happening with al Qaeda."

Under Michigan House Bill No. 5162, teachers, administrators and staff could carry a concealed pistol on school grounds if approved by a principal. The principal at an individual school could require interested educators to take additional training, perhaps with a police department.

The proposed legislation would also allow parents and legal guardians who already possess proper gun permits to carry concealed pistols on school property while picking up or dropping off a child.

Agema said entrenched partisan bickering with a Democratic-controlled Michigan House would probably prevent the bill from even emerging out of committee hearings.

Politics may not be Agema's only roadblock. Already, a stream of Michigan educators have come out against the legislation.

Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, the state's biggest educator union, said his organization has always come out against concealed weapons. Still, he also described Agema's proposal as having "no logic."

"You talk to the average person on the street and this just doesn't fly," Pratt said. "Why would we take the chance of something tragic happening by simply introducing guns into the environment. Nothing about this makes sense."

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for example, told the local newspaper the proposed bill left him "speechless," before saying, "If that's what we've come to, I need to find a new line of work."

Larry Johnson, the school system's head of security and a former police officer, called the proposal a "ridiculous" bill and a "knee-jerk reaction." "If you miss, your backstop is other kids," Johnson said.

But Agema stands by the proposed legislation, which he said was similar to one recently offered by a Wisconsin lawmaker. That bill, however, stalled. In Utah and Oregon, he added, educators are already allowed to carry concealed weapons because those states do not have "gun-free zones" around schools.

"The misconception is always that a gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is bad," Agema said. "The only person right now who enters the school with a gun is the guy who's intent on doing harm."

Agema, a licensed gun owner and former commercial airline pilot, said that the knowledge alone that a teacher may be armed would act as a crime deterrent in classrooms. He added that the policy would be optional, not mandatory.

And in the case that there is a student rampage, a madman on campus or even a terror attack, the school would be better equipped to respond if trained educators were armed.

"What do you do in the 10 to 20 minutes or even longer for police to arrive at a scene like this?" he asked.

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