Local: Education

Gov. Bob McDonnell opens door to arming Va. teachers, principals

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Local,Virginia,Education,Steve Contorno

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell would consider arming teachers and principals to prevent another school shooting like the one last week in Newtown, Conn.

"There's been a knee-jerk reaction against that," McDonnell said Tuesday morning on WTOP. "I think we at least need to discuss that."

McDonnell, who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, cautioned against seeking new restrictions on gun owners in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead. The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to fire dozens of rounds in a matter of minutes, hitting each victim multiple times, before committing suicide with a handgun.

Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung was slain when she tried to stop Lanza from reaching another group of students, and gun-rights advocates said she would have succeed in stopping him if she had a gun of her own.

Record gun sales

The day after the massacre in Connecticut elementary school, Virginians bought more guns than at any time since the state started tracking sales in 1989.
Gun stores did 4,166 background checks for gun purchases on Saturday -- the highest volume ever and a 43 percent increase from the same Saturday in 2011.
Sunday sales hit 1,828 transactions, up from 1,045 in 2011.
Gun sales spiked this year in Virginia, fueled by the re-election of President Obama and the end of the state's one-handgun-per-month law.
Through November, there were 357,267 transactions, up from 279,209 in 2011 -- a 22 percent jump.

"If a person like [Hochsprung] was armed and trained could they have stopped the carnage in the classroom?" McDonnell asked. "Perhaps."

However, teachers, for the most part, don't want guns in their classrooms, even if they're the ones holding them.

"I really don't understand how more guns anywhere helps us to avoid violence," said Steve Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. "People who go into education did not go into education to handle guns."

McDonnell isn't the only Republican to suggest that guns in the classrooms could thwart school violence. Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed the idea at a Tea Party rally Monday.

But Virginia Democrats immediately denounced McDonnell's suggestion.

"Can you imagine if there had been a shootout at Newtown?" said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. "Even the NRA hasn't gone this far. Gov. McDonnell's statements were outrageous and insensitive."

McDonnell called for a review of safety procedures at schools throughout the state and said Tuesday that lawmakers in Richmond and Washington must also consider the role of mental health care, the nation's culture of violence and the values parents are teaching at home. He cautioned Congress to "not react solely when you're emotional."

Lawmakers may take up gun legislation when the General Assembly convenes next month, but Democrats insist they'll oppose any attempt to arm teachers.

"If we need to have armed people in schools to provide protection for our students," said Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, "then it needs to be public safety people."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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