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Teachers have flocked to a Utah firearms training programme to teach them how to tackle an armed assault like the Sandy Hook elementary massacre that left 20 children and six teachers dead earlier this month.More than 200 teachers responded to the course offered by the Utah Shooting Sports Council came a week after the National Rifle Association, the powerful national gun lobby group, launched a highly controversial campaign to put armed guards in every school in America .
Utah is one of two states in American that allows licensed teachers to carry concealed firearms on school premises but the ‘Mass Violence Response Training Class’.
“I’m thinking this would be a great opportunity to protect the children and protect the teachers if that opportunity arose. That’s the reason I’m here,” Stephen Pratt, a third grade teacher who was one of the 200 to get a space, told a local television channel.
“I feel like I would take a bullet for any student in the school district,” added Kasey Hansen, a special education teacher from Salt Lake City. “If we should ever face a shooter like the one in Connecticut, I’m fully prepared to respond with my firearm,” she told Reuters after the training session, adding that she planned to buy a weapon soon and take it to work.
After the Sandy Hook shootings Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, provoked a fierce reaction from teachers unions and gun-control advocates by suggesting it was “crazy” not to put armed guards in schools, as was commonplace at airports and other Federal buildings.
The National Education Association, the largest teaching union in America, led the criticism, saying that schools were places of nurturing and learning where guns should have no place.
“In general, teachers don’t want guns in schools, period,” argued said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, “It’s a school. It’s not a place where guns should be,” he said.
And even in Utah the idea of encouraging more teachers to carry weapons has drawn criticisms. “It’s a terrible idea,” Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education told Fox News, arguing arming teaching would cause a rise in accidents, “It’s a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea.”
However arming teachers is an idea that appears to be gaining traction in some in southern and western States, where hunting is common and gun ownership high.
In Ohio, the Buckeye Firearms Association said it was launching a test programme in tactical firearms training for 24 teachers initially, while in Arizona this week the State’s attorney general launched a proposal to allow any school to train and arm its head or another staff member.
In Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County announced plans to deploy an armed volunteer posse to protect students around the perimeters of schools.
Separately, police in Los Angeles were left shocked when the city’s annual gun buy-back programme yielded 901 handguns, 698 rifles and 363 shotguns – and two rocket launchers.
A total of 2,037 weapons were handed over to police in exchange for supermarket vouchers – an increase of 400 on last year – after the annual day was brought forward in response to this month’s Sandy Hook elementary massacre in Connecticut.
“These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. These are made to put high-velocity, extremely deadly, long-range rounds downrange as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city,” said LAPD chief, Charlie Beck, showing off the haul.
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