Educators say they have no way of knowing how many teachers are armed. Gun-rights advocates estimate 1 percent of Utah teachers, or 240, are licensed to carry concealed weapons. It’s not known how many do so at school.
Gun-rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children from the kind of deadly shooting that took place in Connecticut.
“We’re not suggesting that teachers roam the halls” for an armed intruder, said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the state’s leading gun lobby. “They should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooter” breaks into a classroom, he said.
The council said it would waive its $50 fee for the training. Instruction will feature plastic guns and a major emphasis will be for people who are facing deadly threats to announce they have a gun and retreat or take cover before trying to shoot, he said.
“Mass shootings may still be rare, but that doesn’t help you when the monster comes in.”
Utah is among few states that let people carry licensed concealed weapons into public schools without exception, the National Conference of State Legislatures says in a 2012 compendium of state gun laws.
Leatherbarrow said he often felt threatened while working at an inner-city school in Buffalo, N.Y., where he got a license to carry a pistol. He moved less than a year ago to Utah, where he feels safer.
But he said gun violence can break out anywhere. He said he was highly trained in handling guns — and was taking criticism from parents who don’t appreciate his views on school safety.
“I’m in agreement not everybody should be carrying firearms in school. They’re not trained. But for some parents to think we’re cowboys, that frustrates me,” he said. “I wish parents would understand.”