Lawmaker Who Wants to Arm Teachers Almost Learned Why That May Not Be a Good Idea

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 29 2013 5:06 PM

Lawmaker Who Wants to Arm Teachers Almost Learned Why That May Not Be Such a Good Idea

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A convention goer handles a Ruger 1911 model semi-automatic pistol during the142nd annual National Rifle Association(NRA) convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center May 4, 2013 in Houston, Texas

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Jeremy Hutchinson, a Republican state senator in Arkansas, is one voice in an NRA-led chorus of them who want to see armed teachers in his state's classrooms. Only days after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Hutchinson proposed deputizing teachers who wanted to carry guns at work. And just yesterday, he continued to advocate for an Arkansas school district to be allowed to move forward with a plan to arm about 20 teachers, administrators and other staff this fall. Apparently, nothing will change his mind, as this are-you-sure-there-isn't-a-lesson-in-there anecdote uncovered by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette suggests (emphasis mine):

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, is interested in exploring whether state law allows school districts to make decisions on school safety. If a legal avenue does not exist, he hopes the Legislature will change the law.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Hutchinson became interested in arming school personnel, he said. He was invited to attend an "active shooter" training and—using a rubber bullet-loaded pistol—he mistakenly shot a teacher who was confronting a "bad guy."
The experience gave Hutchinson some pause, but he still supports giving schools the authority to decide how best to secure their campuses. "The ideal would be to have a trained resource officer in every school," Hutchinson said. "The state and school districts can’t afford that."
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It's unclear from the article what prompted Hutchinson to share the embarrassing story, although it was noticeably absent from a press release sent out earlier this year by one of his fellow Republican colleagues who had attended the same training session. "It was intense, enlightening and when we weren't being shot, it was fun," Hutchinson was quoted as saying in that release. "I learned how little I knew about school safety."

Late last month, Arkansas' Clarksville School District announced plans to use something of a legal loophole to begin training and arming school staff by classifying them as private security guards. That plan, however, ran into trouble early this month when the state attorney general said that the law they were using to do that didn't apply to school districts, leaving it uncertain whether armed teachers will be in Clarksville classrooms this fall. A state board is set to decide the matter next month.

While Clarksville is using the guard classification to work around state law, several other states have passed legislation clearing the way for teachers and staff to arm themselves. Those efforts, as the New York Times explained last month, have run into a major hurdle in the form of insurance companies.

Update, Friday, 12:37 a.m.: TPM spoke with Hutchinson on Thursday to flesh out the Democrat-Gazette story and learned a small but significant detail, one that I think was implied in the original newspaper report but not necessarily clear: The "teacher" who the GOP lawmaker shot with the rubber bullet wasn't an actual teacher, but a police officer who was playing the role of one. (The parts of the "bad guys" were also being played by police.)

"The first two simulations they were just all bad guys, and so we got used to running in, you’d go to the sound of the gunfire," said Hutchinson, explaining the different active-shooting scenarios he was put through. "And then they threw a twist in on the third one, where there was what appeared to be a bad guy in the hallway, shooting into the classroom. And so, just instinctively, I shot. And then I turned the corner and see that the bad guy that I had just shot was actually shooting with another bad guy, which kind of blew my mind for a second."

While Hutchinson says the experience was "eye-opening," he still believes that schools that want to arm their teachers should be allowed to. He told TPM that he does, however, now believe "extensive" training should be required for anyone who carries a gun in a school, so that it's "not just be somebody with a concealed carry permit walking around carrying a gun."

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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