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Utah bill would let parents know if kids' teacher was packing gun

Published March 1, 2013 7:24 am

Firearms • Parents also would be allowed to request their child be moved.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The thought of teachers carrying guns in the classroom makes some parents cringe and others breathe sighs of relief.

But now, there's no way to know exactly who's carrying what. One Utah lawmaker wants to change that.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, plans to run a bill to allow parents to find out if their children's teachers are packing in the classroom. A parent would also be allowed to request his or her child be reassigned to a different teacher if the teacher is carrying, under the bill.

"This is a parents' rights bill. It's not a gun bill," Moss said Thursday. Though it's late in the legislative session, Moss said she wants to see discussion about the issue. "I think the discussion will be worthwhile, and I want to see if people think parental rights trump gun rights."

She pointed to a recent Utah poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and commissioned by The Exoro Group, in which 82 percent of respondents said parents should have a right to know if their children's teachers carry firearms.

That same poll also found that nearly 60 percent of Utahns either strongly or somewhat favor allowing teachers and other full-time school employees to carry firearms at school. Teachers are already allowed to carry concealed weapons at schools in Utah.

The proposal comes amid national discussion about school safety and gun control following a December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life. He also fatally shot his mother.

It's a tragedy that's inspired some to push for more guns in schools and others for more gun control nationwide.

Moss' bill is sure to generate the same polarized reactions in Utah if it makes it to a public hearing in coming days. The legislative session will last only two more weeks, and the bill, HB389, had just been publicly released Friday morning.

But already, the proposal has opponents and supporters.

Miriam Walkingshaw, co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, called the bill a good one, saying guns in classrooms present "a danger," especially given Utah's high child-to-adult ratios in schools. She said, in light of that, parents should have the right to know if their child's teacher is carrying at school.

"People aren't always able to be 100 percent on top of everything, and a gun is a weapon that's designed to kill people," Walkingshaw said. "Accidents happen."

Others say schools would be safer if more teachers carried guns. Marilyn Anderson, a teacher at Northridge High School in Layton, said educators shouldn't have to worry about being penalized for carrying. Anderson has a concealed carry permit but said she doesn't carry in the classroom, mainly because her gun is too big to wear comfortably and she would like more experience with it first.

"It's a constitutional right, so the problem is what if every parent wants their kid out just because the teacher's carrying?" Anderson wondered. "Does the teacher lose his or her job for doing something that's constitutionally protected?"

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said allowing parents to find out if their teachers are carrying would be an invasion of teachers' privacy. He said the bill is unnecessary.

"Teachers with permits have been carrying for 12 years now, and there's never been a problem, let alone a pattern of problems among those with permits," Apo­shian said. "We think this is just another way to demonize permit holders, who happen to be teachers in this case."

The Utah Shooting Sports Council co-hosted a free concealed weapons class for teachers late last year, after the Sandy Hook shooting, that attracted more than 150 Utah educators and school workers.