https://www.theepochtimes.com/texas-republicans-renew-interest-in-arming-teachers_4509332.html

In wake of the Uvalde school shooting, Texas Republicans have expressed renewed interest in programs already in place to arm teachers as state Democrats call for more gun control.

Texas Attorney Ken Paxton (R) saidn he doesn’t believe passing new gun laws will deter criminals, and believes the answer is to make schools hard targets for killers.

“We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. They’re going to violate murder laws. They’re not going to follow gun laws – I’ve never understood that argument,” Paxton told Fox News.

“We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly—because the reality is we don’t have the resources to have law enforcement at every school,” he added.

Paxton was responding to the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, home to a small, rural Texas school district where a teen gunman slipped through an open door and killed 19 children and two teachers.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke, is demanding action from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (L) interrupts a press conference held by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott following a shooting the day before at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas, on May 25, 2022. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

“Anyone can call for a committee. Only a governor can call a special session. Do your job,” O’Rourke said on Twitter. O’Rourke went so far as to interrupt Abbott’s press conference on the Uvalde school shooting last week. “This is on you,” he said.

Like Paxton, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz  (R-Texas) said restrictive gun laws won’t stop criminals.

“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it —you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” Cruz told MSNBC. “That doesn’t work.”

Abbott said Wednesday in a statement Texas must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence, but ruled out gun control legislation. He called on Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, (R) the State Senate’s presiding officer, to form committees examining previous legislation and resources available to schools.

Gun toting teachers are nothing new in Texas. In 2013, the state legislature authorized employees to carry firearms on school property. Texas school districts can opt into the School Marshal Plan and the Guardian Plan.

Under the Marshal Plan, school employees can carry a handgun on school premises after 80 hours of training. However, school marshals are restricted from carrying concealed firearms if they’re in regular contact with the students. Instead, the marshal can store a gun in a safe at the school. There are 62 school districts participating in this plan according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

The Guardian Plan authorizes school boards to allow any employee to be armed under the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act and the Texas Penal Code. After completing 16 hours of training, those employees may carry a concealed firearm in the presence of students. According to the Texas Association of School Boards, 389 districts reported using the Guardian plan as of May.

The cost-effectiveness of the Guardian program is one reason why one Wichita Falls school district adopted it about three years ago. Tony Bushong, superintendent for City View Independent School District, told The Epoch Times that while armed teachers can’t replace police officers, they offer a solution to security when budgets are tight.

“By doing this, I’m arming my teachers, but it’s not costing me a whole lot,” he said.

Right now his district of 1,130 students has 14 Guardian volunteers. Three more have asked to join since the Uvalde shooting. Bushong thinks more schools will consider the Guardian program in the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy.

Epoch Times Photo
In this Dec. 27, 2012 file photo, Cori Sorensen, a fourth grade teacher from Highland Elementary School in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy in West Valley City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

At LaVernia Independent School District east of San Antonio, Director of Safety and Security Michael Duffek told The Epoch Times via email that his district opted into the Guardian program shortly before the Uvalde shooting due to “outside visitors” trying to get in.

Like Bushong, he believes more schools will sign up for the programs to deter criminals and enhance protection.

“Absolutely, time is crucial and those supports on campus could help,” Duffek said in an email.

Bushong said the Guardian program is voluntary and no one on campus knows who carries a weapon. The training for the program involves the use of rubber bullets and making split-second decisions in different scenarios to eliminate a shooter.

“In my opinion, the more guns we have on campus, the safer we will be,” Bushong said. Teachers packing firearms can respond within minutes to potentially save lives.

State funding for school security is sparse, he said, adding his district received a little over $10,000 from the state for the school year. Bushong said his district and others are forced to use local funds to fill the gap. He estimates that his district spent about $200,000 this school year on police salaries along with training costs and hundreds of rounds of bullets for Guardian teachers.

“It’s not just me – it’s everyone,” he said of school districts struggling to secure their populations. “It’s very frustrating.”

Bushong and Duffek said their message for the legislative committees would be to increase funding to help schools stay safe.

“I don’t believe we will ever stop evil. All we can do is minimize. We can’t stop everything,” Bushong said.

Epoch Times Photo
People visit a makeshift memorial for the 21 victims of an elementary school mass shooting in the town square in Uvalde, Texas, on May 29, 2022. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), who was appointed to the newly formed Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans, believes the first order of business is to get an accurate record of what happened that day in Uvalde, including a complete picture of police response.

Once the events are clear, the committee will look at a number of school safety enhancements, Bettencourt told The Epoch Times.  Districts using armed officers and programs to arm teachers will be part of their review.

School financing can also be addressed by the committee he said, adding a special session is not needed despite what Democrats are claiming.

Bettencourt said there is about $15 million available that can be sent quickly to the Texas Education Agency to distribute to schools for security.

Darlene McCormick Sanchez

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