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Texas town lets teachers carry concealed guns

By Angela K. Brown

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:06 a.m. HST, Dec 20, 2012

HARROLD, Texas » In this tiny Texas town, children and their parents don't give much thought to safety at the community's lone school — mostly because some of the teachers are carrying concealed weapons.

In remote Harrold, the nearest sheriff's office is 30 minutes away, and people tend to know — and trust — one another. So the school board voted to let teachers bring guns to school.

"We don't have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution," Superintendent David Thweatt said. "A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible, holstered weapon, but our teachers have master's degrees, are older and have had extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children."

In the awful aftermath of last week's Connecticut elementary school shooting, lawmakers in a growing number of states — including Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon — have said they will consider laws allowing teachers and school administrators to carry firearms at school.

Texas law bans guns in schools unless the school has given written authorization. Arizona and six other states have similar laws with exceptions for people who have licenses to carry concealed weapons.

Harrold's school board voted unanimously in 2007 to allow employees to carry weapons. After obtaining a state concealed-weapons permit, each employee who wants to carry a weapon must be approved by the board based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis, Thweatt said.

Employees also must undergo training in crisis intervention and hostage situations. And they must use bullets that minimize the risk of ricochet, similar to those carried by air marshals on planes.

CaRae Reinisch, who lives in the nearby community of Elliott, said she took her children out of a larger school and enrolled them in Harrold two years ago, partly because she felt they would be safer in a building with armed teachers.

"I think it's a great idea for trained teachers to carry weapons," Reinish said. "But I hate that it has come to this."

The superintendent won't disclose how many of the school's 50 employees carry weapons, saying that revealing that number might jeopardize school security.

The school, about 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth near the Oklahoma border, has 103 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Most of them rarely think about who is carrying a gun.

"This is the first time in a long time that I've thought about it," said Matt Templeton, the principal's 17-year-old son. "And that's because of what happened" in Connecticut.

Thweatt said other Texas schools allow teachers to carry weapons, but he would not reveal their locations, saying they are afraid of negative publicity.

The Texas Education Agency said it had not heard of any other schools with such a policy. And the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence did not know of any other districts nationwide that allow school employees to carry concealed handguns.

But that may change soon.

Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough said he is working on a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to receive firearms training through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, which would authorize them to carry weapons at school and at school events. Other states are proposing or considering similar measures.

However, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools, churches and day care centers, saying he seeks a more "thoughtful review" that includes school emergency policies and mental health-related issues.

In Texas, guns have an honored place in the state's culture, and politicians often describe owning a gun as essential to being Texan. At the state Capitol, concealed handgun license holders are allowed to skip the metal detectors that scan visitors.

Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he would prefer to give gun owners the widest possible latitude. Just days after the Connecticut attack, Perry said permit holders should be able to carry concealed weapons in any public place.

Last year, many Texas lawmakers supported a plan to give college students and professors with concealed handgun licenses the right to carry guns on campus, but the measure failed.

Opponents insist that having more people armed at a school, especially teachers or administrators who aren't trained to deal with crime on a daily basis, could lead to more injuries and deaths. They point to an August shooting outside the Empire State Building, where police killed a laid-off clothing designer after he fatally shot his former colleague. Nine bystanders were wounded by police gunfire, ricochets and fragments.

"You are going to put teachers, people teaching 6-year-olds in a school, and expect them to respond to an active-shooter situation?" said Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who called the idea of arming teachers "madness."

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said she would not have felt better if teachers at her children's Seattle school had been armed during a May shooting at a nearby cafe. A gunman killed four people at the cafe and another woman during a carjacking before killing himself. The school went on lockdown as a precaution.

"It would be highly concerning to me to know that guns were around my kids each and every day. ... Increasing our arms is not the answer," said Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising.org.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said focusing on arming teachers distracts from the "real things" that could help prevent a school shooting "and at worse it furthers a dangerous conversation that only talks about guns as protection without a discussion about the serious risks they present."

As the debate continues, Harrold's school plans to leave its policy unchanged.

"Nothing is 100 percent at all. ... But hope makes for a terrible plan, hoping that (a tragedy) won't happen," Thweatt said. "My question is: What have you done about it? How have you planned?"


Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston and Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.

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onevoice82 wrote:
It's about time someone got some good sense. Our teachers need to trained and carry! Selected teachers will get higher pay. David Thweatte is the only superintendent in the country that knows how to act and how to act fast!
on December 20,2012 | 04:35AM
kainalu wrote:
... and a little bit of research will reveal that Texas also has one of the higher rates of gun-violence. Everybody is packing. The potential for a good ol' shootout with kids caught in the crossfire is huge.
on December 20,2012 | 07:11AM
Pacej001 wrote:
And a little more research from last years FBI crime stats would reveal that Connecticut had a higher percentage of murders, by fire arm, than Texas in spite of having much tougher gun control laws. Yeah, yeah, Texas had a lot more murders, but it also has a lot more PEOPLE. Normalizing for population, 26 mil vs 3.5 mil, Connecticut still has a higher percentage and a similar fire arms murder rate per 100K.
on December 20,2012 | 07:42AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Holy shoots! Again from FBI crime stats. Massachusetts even had a higher percentage rate of murder by fire arm than Texas. Can't get any bluer than that.
on December 20,2012 | 07:46AM
allie wrote:
Typical barbaric Texas. Teachers carrying guns raises the risk to the children hugely.
on December 20,2012 | 05:19AM
Anonymous wrote:
on December 20,2012 | 07:04AM
cojef wrote:
This particular school is located 30 miles away from police presence. This distant precludes instant response. If police are trained to carry firearms, why is it different for trained teachers to carry concealed firearms? Remember most teacher have credentials with Master degrees. It is not difficult for teachers to accrue the proficiency of that of the police. My son, during his growing age, was trained in gun safety by a bonafide NRA firearm safety instructor. Parents who allow their children to watch the current diabolical games are much to blame to the rise is violence in schools. Children's video games, a pornorgraphy of violence to children same as sexual predators who watch child pornography. Wake up America.
on December 20,2012 | 07:42AM
saveparadise wrote:
hmmm allie, I haven't heard of any teacher hurting a student with a gun. There have been a lot of shooters that could have been stopped otherwise.
on December 20,2012 | 07:44AM
yhls wrote:
People have a right to defend themselves if the police are not able to.
on December 20,2012 | 05:31AM
cojef wrote:
You are correct. This school is located 30 miles from the closest police response. The school officials have reacted prudently by allowing trained teacher on firearm use to carry concealed weapons on school ground. Most of the teaching professional are in possession of master degrees and are capable to learn the proper use of firearms to protect their students.
on December 20,2012 | 07:49AM
stingray65 wrote:
That why I like to carry a .45 cal!! Cops are too heavy to carry!
on December 20,2012 | 09:23AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I'm all for teachers carrying guns in school -- just don't give them any bullets.
on December 20,2012 | 06:14AM
stingray65 wrote:
What is the point here? Go to war with no bullets? How do you drive a car with no gas?
on December 20,2012 | 09:25AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I didn't realize that this was such a complicated issue that would require a phd in common sense to figure out.
on December 20,2012 | 09:47AM
808comp wrote:
Don't think that's a good idea for teachers allowed to carry guns in school. Texas going back to the old west where everyone will be walking around with a gun.
on December 20,2012 | 07:23AM
cojef wrote:
Texas is in the forefront in the education field. When there is a need, especially when police response is 30 miles away, how else is there a way to provide protection to their student charges? Currently video games offered to juveniles are violence of the likes never before offered. Parents have to take a good look at what there children are watching. More so, what they are purchasing and providing their children. Violence sells to every population. Sensibilities are being raised to a higher levels, and a juvenile are prone to reenact what they have been indoctrinated with, violence.
on December 20,2012 | 07:57AM
cojef wrote:
Oops, guess was too hard on how we raise our children by modern day parents.
on December 20,2012 | 07:43AM
cojef wrote:
2 oops, censors are in favor control and would refrain from allowing opposite views.
on December 20,2012 | 07:44AM
saveparadise wrote:
The mentality is different because of the history involved with the western pioneers and towns with sheriffs that could not be there to help you if you became a victim. Help was after the fact (sounds familiar?). You mess with someone you risk getting shot. Who wants to get shot? Over here you get beat up, robbed, and if you try to defend yourself you get sued. If there is a conviction the criminal gets little to no punishment or incarceration. Law abiding citizens live in fear and the criminals roam the streets with attitude. We have it backwards and insanity rules.
on December 20,2012 | 07:56AM
Rochesterdj1 wrote:
Harrold, TX is in the middle of nowhere so what goes on in Harrold doesn't really make sense for any other part of this country. Nonetheless, it is a NRA factoid that if those kids and teachers in Newtown were packing handguns they'd be alive right now. Just think what would have happened when the crazy guy entered the school and all those school kids drew down on him. He certainly would have thought twice about pulling the trigger, HEH! Read in this morning's WSJ that S&W has a small hand gun available in their model mix. They didn't say it but my guess is that it will be marketed to kids under 9.
on December 20,2012 | 08:26AM
saveparadise wrote:
Rochester, It is a fact that if you are not the first victim you would have a chance to defend yourself and others if you were allowed to and chose to carry. The legal age to apply for a firearm permit in Texas is 21 or 18 if military. A 9 year old would be perfectly capable of defending themselves if trained. Ask Vietnam vets. Why do you mock those that are willing to defend themselves and risk their lives for others?
on December 20,2012 | 09:02AM
LanaUlulani wrote:
There goes the panic mode again which can cost more innocent children their lives. I am glad that these teachers are trained to protect and defend these innocent children.

Law-abiding people are not allowed to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. Conversely criminals know EXACTLY where to find unarmed children in order to shoot them.
Keep it real especially when children are involved. Your arrogance can cost children their lives.
on December 20,2012 | 08:52AM
richw66 wrote:
I'll bet you won't see a gunman trying to kill kids in Harrold, TX schools!
on December 20,2012 | 08:53AM
stingray65 wrote:
This is what we need in Hawaii. Good citizen cannot carry guns. That means we are nothing but but a target. If we have conceal to carry, bad guys have to think twice before trying to doing something. I hope our politicians or law makers will act now, before copy cat idea will happen.
on December 20,2012 | 09:20AM
Maunawiliboy wrote:
AMEN...gun control is being able to hit what you aim at.
on December 20,2012 | 12:35PM
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