EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSARMING TEACHERS DEBATE
from Eyewitness News Online
Call For Arming Teachers Echoes In Air After Newtown Tragedy
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: Matt Durrett/Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Feb. 13, 2013 11:35 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 13, 2013 11:55 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Not long after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the call came out for arming teachers.
Eyewitness News reporter Leslie Rubin looks at the polarizing subject that reaches far beyond the classroom.
It's a heated debate that everyone likely has some sort of opinion on. Should we arm teachers and give them a fighting chance? Or is this sending the wrong message to students...that fighting guns with guns is the solution?
John Adams Middle School chorus teacher Kristi Whisner takes her teaching skills to another level, swapping her song sheets for handguns when the weekend rolls around.
She's a certified NRA instructor who takes self-defense very seriously.
"If there'd be one percent chance of rain would you carry an umbrella? Probably a lot of us wouldn't, but when we're talking about self-defense, that's a much bigger issue than getting wet," she says.
With the gun control debate more heated than ever, she says she'd be willing to carry a gun in her classroom, and would support the idea for other teachers if they're willing, and given extensive and proper training.
"There's no defense to a handgun other than another handgun and that's an unfortunate truth," she says.
Others say, 'not so fast.'
"I don't think it's a good idea," says Jamie Sibold. Sibold has children in Kanawha County schools, and has no problem with guns. He's even one of Whisner's students who can qualify for a concealed carry permit, but when it comes to putting them in the hands of educators, he's not convinced that it will make schools safer.
"There's going to be pandemonium. People are going to be going all directions and the collateral damage could be worse than what would happen," he says.
Phares says even having the discussion of gun toting teachers is premature.
"It's unfathomable but it doesn't prompt that we've got to be reactive, or that we've got to become polarized, and oh yeah, we put guns in the hands of teachers," says Phares.
More than a third of states already allow teachers and other adults to carry guns in schools. Each of the state's laws differ on specifics, but in some cases, all it takes is permission from the principal.
"I'm not going to come in there and criticize them for that. I'm sure they have a programmatic level that seems to have worked," says Phares.
Phares says the state has spent $30 million over the last five years making schools safer. Some of those upgrade include security systems designed to restrict access to that guns can't make their way into schools. "Now, we're immediately talking about where we're walking right in through the front door. This is schools that we're talking about," he says.
The signs on schools make it perfectly clear. No guns, no exceptions. Leaving some arguing that's an open invitation for violence.
"The gun free zones do not work. The only people that don't have weapons are the only people that need to have them to protect them against the people that can come in," says Brian Savilla.
Savilla was a full-time social studies teacher in Putnam County and now works as a substitute. He fully supports putting guns in teacher's hands. He believes it would give would be shooters second thoughts about attacking a school.
"If someone knows they can come into a school, and you have five teachers and you don't know which ones that it is, that are armed, and ready to go then it's going to keep people away," he says.
Whether it's a group of people wanting to learn to protect themselves, or a teacher now forces to take a stance on gun control. The effects of Sandy Hook are everywhere. A reshaped debate in the post Newtown era, with children's safety on the front lines.
"We know that it's not just a guns or no guns issue. It's a mufti-faceted, monster of a thing, and it's going to take a long time to get to the point where we don't have to use force to stop force."
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