Maryland school shooting comes as some LA legislators want teachers armed

Sheriff, AG sound off on arming teachers
Updated: Mar. 20, 2018 at 5:29 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tuesday's Maryland school shooting comes as some Louisiana lawmakers want to let teachers have concealed weapons.

Incidents like Tuesday's shooting and the recent school massacre in Florida likely ensure that the debate over the controversial idea of arming teachers on school campuses remains active.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry was asked to respond Tuesday while in New Orleans.

"I'm a big Second Amendment guy, so I have no problem arming people who are well-trained," said Landry.

There is a bill in the current Louisiana legislative session to allow teachers and other school staffers to carry concealed weapons. If it becomes law and ends up getting a legal challenge, Landry said he would defend it in court.

"I certainly support citizens getting conceal-carry permits, you know, again the shame of it is, is that we're not having a discussion about the underlying effects of why these tragedies out there are happening, again we seem to want to debate a gun which can't answer back," said Landry.

The gun rights discussion aside, many in local law enforcement offer arguments against arming teachers.

"It's just not learning how to become a pretty good shot. It's a lot of tactical training that goes along with it. We train a lot with it, particularly with active shooters, and if you don't have a combination of those things, just arming a teacher I don't think is the right thing to do," said St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann.

Pohlmann thinks it would be better for the federal government to send down more funds so local departments can hire more officers to work as school resource officers.

"Yeah, rather than arming teachers I think you should have trained law enforcement professionals inside the school systems who can more appropriately deal with situations," he said.

A local teacher's union president recently echoed that.

"I don't feel that any guns in the school buildings are warranted unless they are by sheriff's deputies like we have in Jefferson Parish," said Cathy Johnson, with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.

The National Association of School Resource Officers estimates that between 14,000 and 20,000 SROs are in service across the U.S. based on U.S. Department of Justice Data. It said no one knows exactly how many SROs there are because they're not required to register with a national database, and police departments are not required to report how many of their officers works as SROs, nor are local school systems made to report how many school resource officers they have.

"It's not easy to find cops today, and it's not a position that you want to put a guy out in the pasture working at a school that's close to retirement, you want to have guys that's just as fit, that's working on the street, that's just as fit working in the schools to handle a situation that might arise," said Pohlmann.

He urges parents, teachers, neighbors and others.

"It's a lot of things that need to be done on the front-end, particularly law enforcement's response to these types of threats that come in. In St. Bernard Parish, after that incident we probably made eight arrests on threats that developed inside of our schools, you know, and that's where it starts - not just in gun control, but it starts in how you handle these types of complaints, and I think people need to pay attention whether its parents, a neighbor, friends, teachers," Pohlmann said.

"We have to have a long discussion about why these types of incidents are happening and look at, look at the past and say when did these incidents start happening and what change did we make here in America culturally that led us to these types of strategies," Landry said.

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