Education unions oppose calls to arm teachers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The nation's two largest education unions reiterated their opposition to arming teachers as a response to school shootings today, saying more guns on campuses will make them less safe.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association joined with Everytown for Gun Safety to oppose proposals in Florida and elsewhere to arm teachers and staff members in response to the Marjory Stoneman High School massacre, which left 17 dead. The anniversary of the mass shooting is Thursday.

The Florida Legislature is considering a recommendation by the state commission that investigated the shooting to allow school districts to arm volunteer teachers who undergo background checks and training.

The commission concluded that relying solely on law enforcement is insufficient because mass shootings are usually over in one to three minutes and police officers likely won't arrive in time.

But the unions and Everytown say they oppose such measures for several reasons, including the possibility of students stealing teachers' guns and responding officers confusing an armed teacher for the shooter.

They said a study of New York City police officers showed they hit their target about one time in five shots during firefights, and teachers would be even worse. Those errant bullets would further endanger students.

"Putting more guns in schools is not what is going to make them safe," said Becky Pringle, the NEA's vice president, on a conference call with reporters.

Instead, the groups said, elected and school officials should focus on enacting laws preventing children and mentally ill people from possessing guns. Those would include a "red flag law" where relatives, law enforcement and, in some cases, teachers can petition a judge to order those found dangerous to surrender their guns.

They also called for universal and tougher background checks for all gun purchases and a ban on military-style, high-powered rifles like the AR-15 used at Stoneman Douglas and other mass shootings.

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