N.H. lawmakers consider arming school employees
Teacher groups urged New Hampshire lawmakers yesterday to keep guns out of schools by rejecting a bill that would allow school employees to carry them with the blessing of local voters.
Union leaders for the American Federation of Teachers and NEA New Hampshire objected to the bill at a hearing by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, saying the measure was potentially dangerous to children as well as teachers.
“As the rest of the country debates how to keep guns out of schools, in New Hampshire, we are actually proposing bringing more guns in. Guns have no place in our schools,” said NEA-NH President Scott McGilvray.
Dean Michener of the New Hampshire School Boards Association agreed and cited a study showing that the police in New York City in a gunfight hit their target only 18 percent of the time. Michener said school staff do not have the training that police officers receive.
“The chances an armed teacher will hit a child are high,” he said.
But bill supporter Brian Blackden of Concord said if the police only hit their target 18 percent of the time, “then they need extra help.”
State Rep. Dan Itse, the bill’s prime sponsor, said he filed the legislation in response to the Connecticut shooting rampage in December that killed 20 children and six educators.
The shooting prompted debate across the country about how better to protect schoolchildren. Some argue that arming school employees would have saved lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other school shootings.
Texas allows school districts to let teachers and staff have concealed weapons in class, but only a few rural districts use the option.
Marc Goldberg, spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan, said Hassan believes in working to improve safety in schools “but encouraging weapons in the classroom would put New Hampshire’s children at risk of harm.”
Itse’s bill would allow school boards to ask voters if school employees who are licensed to carry a concealed gun should be allowed to do so while on school property.
Bill supporters testified that barring guns from schools makes the children and staff targets to the mentally disturbed.
Itse said unarmed people in “gun-free zones” are on their own. His bill would let each school district decide if teachers will be able to stop a gunman, he said.
“They wouldn’t be hiding under their desks looking for a pair of scissors,” said Itse, a Republican from Fremont.
Former state rep Spec Bowers, a Republican from Sunapee, said local voters should decide if they would like staff “to be able to throw a book (at a gunman) or have a chance to shoot and stop him.”
But others said the focus should be on mental health treatment and training for parents and teachers to spot troubled children, not guns.
Janet Groat of Portsmouth said she is a member of a new group called Moms Demanding Action for Gun Sense, which she says looks for common sense laws to address the issue.
“Our members don’t want more guns,” she said.