UNION — Regardless of where they buy them, anyone buying a gun should be required to go through a background check and through a training program to ensure they know how to handle a gun safely, Union Public Safety Director Sam White says.
The massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 12, 2012, has reignited the debate over gun control and a concurrent debate over how to secure America’s schools against such atrocities in the future. The steps proposed in the weeks since have ranged from bans on assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons and large ammunition clips to putting armed guards in every school and/or allowing teachers and principals to carry guns on campus.
White said that while he’s heard there’s been some talk in the Legislature about allowing teachers to be armed in school, no action has been taken to change the law that currently bans guns from schools except those in the possession of law enforcement. If the Legislature were to decide to pass the necessary legislation to allow this and if the Union County School District were to exercise that option and permit teachers to be armed, White said the teachers that chose to be armed should go through training on how to handle guns safely.
“This is a political decision for the Legislature to make and for the school board to make if the Legislature changes the law,” White said. “If the district does allow teachers to be armed then they should be trained and proficient in the use of guns. The district will not only need to make sure that teachers are trained and proficient in the use of guns but also have guidelines about how and where they can be carried and how they are to be concealed to avoid accidents or theft.”
As for proposals to ban assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons and large ammunition clips, White said a possible alternative to such a ban would be requiring persons to go through background checks and gun training and safety programs. He said this would be similar to the process people applying for concealed weapons permits go through and should apply not only to weapons bought at stores but also to weapons bought at gun shows and through private sales.
“There is a right to bear arms, but the state has some guidelines you have to go by in getting a concealed weapons permit,” White said. “To get a concealed weapons permit you have to go through a background check and then training to ensure you can properly and responsibly handle a gun.
“You don’t have those type of requirements when you purchase a gun through a gun show or when you buy it from another person,” he said. “Any purchase of a firearm, whether it is a handgun, a shotgun or a rifle and whether it is at a licensed gun dealer or a gun show or a private sale should be required to have a background check. Also, if you want to be a gun owner you should go through some type of gun safety program.”
White said this, along with the issue of whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in the school, is a matter for the state Legislature to decide. In the meantime, he said his department will continue working with the school district to maximize safety and security in the schools.
“The schools are looking at their policies dealing with intruders and during our fire training session on Tuesday we did a walk through Union County High School and Foster Park Elementary School,” White said. “We did the walk through to make sure we are familiar with the schools in the event of any emergency. We’ll be looking at the others later.”
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