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SALT LAKE CITY — More guns in the hands of teachers and administrators could effectively make schools safer and better prepared for active shooters, a Utah gun instructor said.
It's in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and six workers dead. It's also as state school districts are reviewing their security policies and lawmakers are expressing interest in revisiting state gun laws.
"Just one person with one firearm and perhaps one round of ammunition could have changed the entire outcome of Sandy Hook Elementary," said Clark Aposhian, chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.
Aposhian said the idea is not for teachers or other school workers to actively pursue a shooter, but to instead be armed, ready to return fire while maintaining their defensive positions in locked-down classrooms.
Teachers, he said, could even make a difference with minimal gun training.
Just one person with one firearm and perhaps one round of ammunition could have changed the entire outcome.
"Instead of leaping in front of the shooter's bullets, they could produce a firearm, point it and fire and hopefully protect their kids," Aposhian said.
It's unclear how many teachers are out there that have concealed weapons permits and bring concealed guns to school. Granite and Davis school district officials acknowledged Thursday that armed teachers exist, but by law they could not require the teachers to disclose whether they are permit holders.
Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said the district does call on permit holders to keep their weapons with them at all times. Even keeping the guns in lock boxes are no-no's.
Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said that district did not have a firm policy in writing, but it also asks for permit-holding teachers to keep their weapons on them. Williams said the district also encourages employees to tell their principals when they are carrying weapons because they feel unsafe, for whatever reason.
Horsley did not commit to whether more concealed weapons in the hands of school workers in fact made schools safer, but did say "all options are on the table" as Granite determines how to better safeguard students.
"We're going to look at everything," Horsley said, acknowledging when asked that even an armed, plain-clothes presence could be one possibility. "If there's any incident out there in the community - nationwide, across the world, if we feel like we can improve safety for our students, we're going to look at those potential opportunities to do so."
While there have been public calls for gun control following the Newtown tragedy, others have said more heavily-armed schools would be a positive step.
Utah mom Jennilee Smith said the school shooting was "heartbreaking" to her.
"If someone would have had a gun or whatever then they could have probably, hopefully stopped [the shooter]," Smith said.
Not everyone is convinced more guns is a viable solution, including Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.
I don't think most teachers want to have a gun and be responsible for that firearm in their classroom.
–Rep. Carol Spackman Moss
"That is not necessarily the solution," Moss said. "I don't think most teachers want to have a gun and be responsible for that firearm in their classroom. Again, some may want them - but the conversation has to start someplace in the middle."
Moss said she anticipated lawmakers taking a further look at Utah gun laws, including a bill that would make it legal to open carry weapons at public schools.
"I have concerns about it and I've had many of those similar concerns expressed to me by constituents," Moss said. "I'm not going to have the control by myself to defeat that kind of legislation, but I'm open to hearing their rationale."