Law­mak­ers move against arm­ing teach­ers

Greenwich Time - - FRONT PAGE - By Ana Rade­lat

WASH­ING­TON — On the same day the Con­necti­cut Supreme Court is­sued a his­toric rul­ing al­low­ing a law­suit by vic­tims of the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing to move for­ward, Con­necti­cut law­mak­ers in­tro­duced res­o­lu­tions that aim to block the use of fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion grants to arm teach­ers.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 de­ci­sion to over­turn a lower court dis­missal of a case against Rem­ing­ton Arms and other gun man­u­fac­tur­ers “a bomb­shell vic­tory.”

Sen. Chris Mur­phy said al­low­ing the gun li­a­bil­ity case to move for­ward, even if the Sandy Hook vic­tims even­tu­ally lose

the case, will pro­vide a wealth of in­for­ma­tion through the le­gal process of dis­cov­ery about how the in­dus­try mar­kets its prod­ucts.

“Dis­cov­ery alone could be dam­ag­ing to the gun in­dus­try,” Mur­phy said.”It will teach us a lot about how the gun in­dus­try took a weapon that was de­signed for mil­i­tary use and put it in the hands of Adam Lanza.”

Lanza, the shooter who killed 20 first-graders and six ed­u­ca­tors, fired a ver­sion of the AR-15, a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle.

But the se­na­tors’ chief pur­pose in hold­ing a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day was to in­tro­duce a res­o­lu­tion that would clar­ify that fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion dol­lars can’t be used by schools to arm teach­ers.

The U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has de­clined to say whether re­cip­i­ents of Stu­dent Sup­port and Aca­demic En­rich­ment Grants, which are con­trolled at the dis­trict level, can’t be used to arm teach­ers. The grants can be used for a wide va­ri­ety of pur­poses in­clud­ing pro­mot­ing school safety so that stu­dents are “free from vi­o­lent and dis­rup­tive acts.”

Pro­po­nents of arm­ing teacher say that means the money can be used for pur­chas­ing guns and train­ing teach­ers how to use them.

But Democrats like Blumenthal and Mur­phy say the same sec­tion of the law that es­tab­lished the grants also pri­or­i­tizes “the cre­ation of a school en­vi­ron­ment that is free of weapons.”

Mur­phy said the res­o­lu­tion would make it per­fectly clear that the ed­u­ca­tion grants can’t be used to arm teach­ers.

“Teach­ers have way too much to do,” Mur­phy said. “They don’t have to be marks­men.”

Rep. Ja­hana Hayes, D-5th Dis­trict, in­tro­duced com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion in the U.S. House on Thurs­day, the first time the fresh­man law­maker is the orig­i­nal spon­sor of a res­o­lu­tion.

“The idea com­ing out of this ad­min­is­tra­tion to pos­si­bly arm teach­ers is just wrong,” Hayes, a for­mer teacher, said.

Hayes, who is mar­ried to a po­lice of­fi­cer, said she is con­cerned first re­spon­ders at a school shoot­ing will spend cru­cial min­utes try­ing to de­ter­mine “is this an ac­tive shooter or is this a teacher?”

Randi Weingarten, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, said her union is back­ing the Mur­phy-Hayes res­o­lu­tions.

“I find it in­cred­i­bly harm­ful to even be hav­ing this de­bate be­cause it’s in­san­ity to me,” she said. “My mem­bers and chil­dren got killed in New­town. My mem­bers and chil­dren got killed in Park­land.”

A school safety re­port by a com­mis­sion chaired by Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos that was re­leased in De­cem­ber lauds var­i­ous state pro­grams that arm teach­ers.

Nine states, in­clud­ing Texas, Arkansas and South Dakota, arm school­teach­ers. But none of them, as of yet, are us­ing fed­eral funds to do so.

Mur­phy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd Dis­trict, mem­bers of Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee in the U.S. Se­nate and U.S. House, said they would also try to in­clude lan­guage in spend­ing bills that fund the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion mak­ing it clear that fed­eral dol­lars can’t be used to arm teach­ers.

The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion sup­ports arm­ing teach­ers.

Mur­phy said he hopes to win GOP sup­port for his res­o­lu­tion in the Se­nate which, un­like the House, is still in Repub­li­can hands.

“Repub­li­cans un­der­stand that the world has changes and the NRA is no longer in charge of this place,” Mur­phy said.

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