MADISON - A top leader of the state Legislature is open to measures that would allow teachers to be armed, a potential solution Republicans are floating as the public clamors for action to protect children from being murdered in their classrooms by shooters.
Republican lawmakers and candidates for governor are proposing ways to bring more armed staff into schools as a way to deter school shooters instead of backing popular ways to make it more difficult for assailants from getting guns in the first place, including expanding background checks and implementing new "red flag" laws.
Arming teachers is "on the table" for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a spokeswoman said. But she noted he is more focused on increasing the number of retired officers and armed guards in schools following a shooting at a Texas elementary school this week.
GOP candidate for governor Kevin Nicholson proposed Wednesday to give schools funding to hire armed guards if he is elected and said Thursday in some circumstances, "allowing some teachers who are trained and licensed to carry in order to protect our students may also be warranted."
The ideas are unlikely to gain traction under Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers, who suggested Thursday he would veto legislation that would arm teachers.
"I don’t think there are many teachers that feel that’s a real good idea. Teachers are prepared to teach. I was a teacher, and it’s a big enough job besides being a security guard, too," he told reporters at a meat processing facility in the Brown County village of Denmark.
"And I think the chances of arming teachers and having something horrible happen because they’re not trained appropriately and all that. There are better ways. I’d like to think about finding ways to keep guns away from people who are going to cause these types of problems."
Lobbyists for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and Wisconsin Education Association Council did not immediately answer whether they support the idea of allowing teachers to carry firearms in classrooms.
Democratic Rep. Deb Andraca, who is a licensed teacher and holds a concealed carry permit, said a better idea is to implement a law that allows judges to temporarily bar people deemed to be a danger to others or to themselves to have guns, a proposal that has been rejected by Republican lawmakers.
"I've never met another teacher who thinks this is a good idea," she said. "As a teacher and as someone who has a concealed carry permit, the two don't go together. They do not make our classrooms safer."
Nicholson and Rebecca Kleefisch, who also is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, said Wednesday they support increasing armed staff in schools as a deterrent.
Kleefisch also said school staff should receive more training to "identify kids experiencing adverse events" and that children should have easy access to mental health treatment in schools.
Evers said the idea of beefing up numbers of law enforcement or security guards in schools made him uncomfortable and that the plan could require more staff than schools could find.
"It’s something to think about, but making our schools armed camps I don’t think necessarily helps the learning environment. And those decisions are also made locally," Evers said. "There’s also probably about 2,500 school buildings in the state — it’s not going to happen, there’s not enough people to do it. And I’m not sure we want to turn our learning institutions into armed camps."
Evers said he would rather pass legislation that could help flag gun buyers that could be dangerous.
"Obviously, everybody’s just saddened and horrified by what happened in Texas, but we were saddened and horrified too many times over the last 10 to 20 years. So, I think it’s time that we have that discussion," Evers said.
"I’d really like to be able to work with the Republican Legislature to get something in place, especially around making sure that we have a red flag law that works in Wisconsin, could possibly make sure that it’s safer for us and for the people that own guns and for the people that are around people that own guns."
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Republicans float arming teachers after school shootings