WASHINGTON – Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said he is open to considering a proposal to train and arm teachers but he doubts many of them would want that responsibility.
Hickenlooper told PJM he visited more than 160 public schools as mayor of Denver shortly after the Columbine mass shooting and hardly any teachers indicated that they wanted the ability to carry firearms.
“I’ve probably talked to 1,000 teachers and this was not too long after Columbine happened in 1999, and we discussed those kinds of questions all the time. I can count on one hand the number of people that wanted to be trained and wanted to be carrying handguns or weapons in their schools,” Hickenlooper said at the National Governors Association winter meeting over the weekend.
“So I think if there’s a large number of people that want to take the training and make sure they are fully equipped to do this, anything we can do to make our schools safer I think we should look at, but I don’t think most teachers are going to want anything to do with that,” he added.
When asked about raising the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, Hickenlooper replied, “That makes a lot of sense.”
Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, the chairman of the NGA, disagreed with training and arming teachers as a way to prevent gun violence.
“No, I question that. I’m really concerned about having teachers who may not be properly trained to be carrying firearms at school. I think there may be some other solutions that we can talk about as additional security at the schools, single points of entry and any other possible solutions that we could do,” he said.
“Another thing we did in Nevada is I funded more social workers in the schools, so when there are behavioral issues with students that they have somebody they can go to. I think we spent $15-16 million to ensure a social worker in every school – that’s a model I think could work across the country as well,” he added.
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy opposed any efforts to arm trained teachers or administrators.
“The answer to this is not more guns, it’s less guns – that’s the only thing. Keeping schools safe is a whole-of-government approach, so we have spoken and are speaking constantly with state police, local law enforcement, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Children and Families, it’s a whole-of-government approach,” Murphy said.
“Part of the answer you are seeing in lots of communities, and we’re certainly seeing it in New Jersey, is a more frequent, visible presence by law enforcement, whether it’s local or state police. Those are professionals. Those are folks who are trained. Teachers have been trained to teach. So I do not agree with the president on that at all,” he added.
New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island have partnered to create an information-sharing database to “supplement the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes as well as guns transported across state borders and launch the nation’s first Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium that will study the issue across multiple disciplines to better inform policy makers nationwide.”
Murphy said the creation of the database has been “accelerated” due to the Florida shooting. Murphy declined to name the “handful” of additional states that are being recruited to become a part of the project.
“About a year ago, a light bulb went off with me: three things, New Jersey has strong gun laws – they need to be stronger, we’re working on that but still over 80 percent of the guns in gun crimes in New Jersey are committed with out-of-state guns. Two, I’ve had it with Congress and all the talk and thoughts and prayers and no action on the Republican side of the aisle. I hope our kids, by the way, the kids in this country may prove me wrong,” he said.
“Our generation has failed – maybe they’ll be the ones that finally move the needle in Congress,” the New Jersey governor added. “And thirdly, it occurred to me that we had coalitions of states that had coalesced around other policy areas – one that hit me was climate, the regional greenhouse gas initiative states, so I said why can’t you have, in the absence of, not instead of, but in the absence of federal action, why can’t you have a coalition of states that are like-minded on gun safety?”