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Georgia’s school districts not arming educators as new law takes effect

Georgia’s school system leaders say they do not want to arm educators because,“The risk far outweighed the benefits."
Georgia’s school system leaders say they do not want to arm educators because,“The risk far outweighed the benefits."
Getty Image/Nicole Bailey-Covin

On July 1st, some more than 300 new laws go into effect in Georgia. Among them includes the state’s controversial gun legislation known as the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 or House Bill 60. Part of the sweeping provision gives school district the option to arm teachers.

But despite campus shootings across the country and even in Metro Atlanta, state education leaders are not welcoming the offer into their districts. According to the Associated Press, Georgia school leaders are turning down the new option, “arguing that it doesn't make kids any safer and creates more problems than state lawmakers intended to solve”.

The Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, also known by its opponents as the “guns everywhere” bill, was part of the sweeping legislation expanding previous places guns can be carried. It’s now making it legal for licensed gun holders to carry concealed firearms in school zones, places of worship, some bars and governmental buildings as well as non-secure parts of airports. As for school zones and churches, the governing authority of each individual system has the right to prohibit or allow firearms.

The HB 60 had a divisive history with many opposing the new provision, which was pushed through by GOP Lawmakers during this election year, and signed by the Governor Nathan Deal in the spring.

Since Georgia is largely a pro-gun state many lawmakers expected school districts to extend their rules, pass the measure locally, and provide required gun training. But so far Georgia’s school system leaders are not jumping at the opportunity.

In Middle Georgia, Bibb County School Superintendent, Steve Smith told AP, "We could give (teachers) all the training in the world as to how to a shoot a gun, but knowing when to shoot poses a major problem.”

While many school officials support the Second Amendment right to legally carry guns, they are not so fast to put guns in the hands of educators.

Next door to Bibb County is Houston County, a system sharing similar views. Houston County School Superintendent, Mark Scott told AP “The risk far outweighed the benefits.”

Educators, even in North Georgia’s Fannie County, a very conservative community with a strong gun and hunting culture, has said while they are willing to listen to the community’s views, there are no present plans for discussing training and arming teachers. Superintendent Mark Henson told AP, "This is one we will wring our hands over".

Georgia’s General Assembly isn't the first state legislature to respond to school violence by allowing school personnel to carry guns. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the 2012 Newtown Connecticut School shooting leaving 20 elementary age children and six adults dead, has led to nine states passing 2013 bills authorizing armed educators. In 2014 Georgia joined 14 others state introducing similar bills.