Michigan plan would allow school staff to carry concealed weapons

A proposal by a Michigan representative allowing teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons on school grounds is drawing mixed reactions.

“The bill just allows for the school to assign the ability to carry a concealed weapon,” Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, said. “It gives the superintendent the ability to set policy as they see fit to arm individuals in a school.”

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Calley said the plan wouldn't force school districts to have teachers and administrators be armed, but it would give them the option.

He added there are areas of the state that would benefit the legislation more than others, and just because the legislation is in place, doesn't mean it would happen across the state.

Additionally, Rep. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, said that although she isn't sponsoring the bill, it is important to keep students and teachers safe from violence.

No one wants to see what happened at Virginia Tech University happen across the country, she said.

“It's a sad commentary when we're talking about this with public education,” Emmons said. “It's not the kind of decision that faced school boards 20 years ago.”

If someone was looking to do harm at a school, Emmons said not knowing if someone was armed or not might be a deterrent to the person who was going to go on a shooting spree.

Despite the positive reaction from the legislative community, there are those that don't see this as a solution to school violence.

“I certainly wouldn't be in favor of any staff member, or myself, or anyone carrying a concealed weapon on school property,” said Ionia Public Schools Superintendent Pat Batista.

Instead of arming staff members with weapons, she said she is in favor of preventative programs and methods to avoid violence in schools.

Batista said one example of safer alternatives in the Ionia school district is the use of security cameras and the police liaison program.

These methods all allow students and staff to be safe without putting everyone in harm's way at the same time.

Batista isn't the only one who finds the idea unusual. Ionia County Sheriff Dwain Dennis also said the idea was not a good one.

“I think it might be one of the craziest ideas to come out of Lansing,” Dennis said.

He said that it would be a bad idea to bring something into the schools that could be used against the teacher, and that teachers aren't the people that should be using firearms.

He added police officers go through extensive training for the use of weapons and it could be a disaster waiting to happen to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons without proper training and certification.

To combat the problem of school violence, Dennis said teachers and administrators should be aware of students and warning signs.

In most of the school shootings that have taken place, Dennis said there have been warning signs. Being aware of those signs would do a lot more work than arming people at the school with weapons.

The plan's intent, proposed by Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, would allow teachers, administrators and other school employees to be armed in order to defend schools in the event of an attack.

Ionia Sentinel-Standard