Most Utah legislators are great champions of parental rights: the right to teach your children about sex or, indeed, hold school in your home; the right to decide what medical treatment your children will receive; the right to at least be notified when your child wants an abortion.
But a bill being written by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, will test lawmakers’ commitment to protecting parents’ rights to decide what is an appropriate — and safe — environment for their children. It boldly pits the revered right to carry firearms against the mostly sacrosanct right of parents to make decisions about their children.
Moss says her pending legislation would allow parents to find out whether a gun is present in their children’s classrooms. And, if a teacher does carry a weapon or keep one in the room, they rightly could request their children be placed in another classroom.
It is a sensible and necessary way to accommodate the various beliefs parents have about guns. Some parents do not feel safe around guns and do not want their children in a classroom where the teacher is packing. Other parents believe having an armed teacher makes their children safer in the event a person bent on doing harm attacks the school.
But the legislation, as Moss explains it, will appear to some gun-rights advocates as a violation of a teacher’s Second Amendment right to carry a firearm. But it is not about that. Teachers with concealed-carry permits have been allowed to take their guns to school for years, but few do. That is likely to change in the aftermath of school shootings, particularly the one in December that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
The Sandy Hook tragedy has polarized the debate over guns, especially over guns in schools, and teachers have shown an increased interest in learning more about arming themselves. The Utah Shooting Sports Council co-hosted a free concealed weapons class for teachers after the Sandy Hook shooting that attracted more than 150 Utah educators and school workers, and similar classes have been popular elsewhere.
But no matter what training an armed teacher may have had, some parents will strongly oppose their children studying and playing in a room where there is a deadly weapon. And those parents have rights, too.
Moss’ proposal rightly would let parents "opt out" of a school environment that includes a deadly weapon, just as some parents are able to opt out of sex education in the school. It’s a simple matter of parental rights.
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