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Local officials wary of gun proposals for N.C. schools

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

One bill would allow teachers, administrators, even janitors to get training and carry guns on school campuses. Another would put an armed safety marshal in every North Carolina school – who could use deadly force against anyone trying to kill students or faculty members.

Charlotte city leaders estimate a half-dozen bills that would allow greater use of guns in schools are winding their way through the N.C. General Assembly. The bills were proposed after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.

School officials and Charlotte City Council members are almost universally opposed to many of the measures – particularly any measure that would arm teachers.

“It’s insane to allow teachers to carry firearms in school,” Bud Cesena, the head of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools police department, told the City Council’s Community Safety subcommittee. “Teachers’ jobs are to teach. Police officers’ jobs are to protect.”

But officials admit they lack the lobbying power to fully oppose many of the bills.

“We’ve got our plates full,” said Andy Dulin, a Republican council member on the government affairs committee.

Legislatures across the country are grappling with bills on both sides of the gun control debate, and a number of bills raise the question of whether teachers or administrators should be armed on campus.

South Dakota has passed a new law allowing school personnel to carry guns into elementary and high schools, according to The Associated Press. Similar legislation is awaiting the governor’s signature in Kansas. And Arkansas has enacted a new law allowing colleges to let staff with concealed gun permits take their weapons on campus.

Last week a National Rifle Association-sponsored report proposed a program for schools to train selected staffers as armed security officers. The proposal calls for at least one protector with firearms for every school.

N.C. Senate Bill 27 would do just that. Sponsored by Stan Bingham, a Denton Republican, the bill would train people to be school safety marshals. Part of the bill reads:

“Training standards shall include a minimum level of firearms training that involves the actual firing of firearms and that also focuses on the use of firearms in a crisis situation that may involve unarmed bystanders.”

Dulin said he is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights but said someone would have to figure out a way to pay for the marshals.

“Anything you do has a cost, because that marshal doesn’t stand over there for free,” he said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who was in Washington, D.C., this week lobbying for a bill that would require background checks on private gun sales, also said simply having more guns on school campuses could make it easier for students to acquire weapons.

“If I’m a gangbanger, I don’t have to worry about bringing a gun to school,” Monroe said. “I just have to find a teacher who has a gun and take theirs.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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