Mia Love is not on board with arming teachers, but John Curtis could get behind it

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Congresswoman Mia Love speaks to The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

A week after a deadly school shooting in Florida, Republican Rep. Mia Love said there are “things I am absolutely willing to support” to prevent future attacks.

President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers — a position shared by the National Rifle Association — is not one of them.

“This is not about winning political points,” the Utah congresswoman told The Salt Lake Tribune’s editorial board Thursday. “It’s about keeping our kids safe. I want to know if it’s actually going to help.”

But Love, who has three children in public school and worries about their safety, is open to Trump’s other suggestions to increase some firearm background checks and raise the age threshold from 18 to 21 to purchase an assault rifle (like the AR-15 police say a 19-year-old gunman used in Florida). She was unsure whether she would support banning the military-grade weapon outright.

“We need to make sure our youth aren’t able to get access to these weapons,” she later told the Utah House Democratic Caucus. “Every single one of us should feel responsible and have some urgency to fix that.”

The congresswoman, who has taken $3,000 in NRA donations over her two terms, has also backed a measure to ban bump stocks, which essentially turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.

The bulk of any solution, Love suggested, won’t come from Washington but from state lawmakers and local leaders who she believes can tailor to the needs of their districts and schools. That’s the same stance U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney took last week, saying, “We can’t just sit and wait and hope for things to get better.”

“I don’t think that Congress is the one that’s going to come up with all of the fixes,” Love said.

Utah’s newest congressman, Republican Rep. John Curtis, cautiously agreed with Trump, in part, on arming educators. “I personally think that it doesn’t need to be threatening or controversial,” he told The Tribune.

(Courtesy| John Curtis campaign) Provo Mayor John Curtis stands outside Action Target in Provo.

While he wouldn’t want a dozen teachers in a school to carry a concealed weapon, Curtis said one or two “changes the equation, and pretty dramatically,” in a mass shooting. He would stipulate, though, that those educators register and train with a local police department — which is not a requirement in Utah, where concealed weapons are allowed on K-12 campuses by permit.

“I wouldn’t want a teacher to carry a firearm unless they had a great level of training and experience,” he said.

Before being elected to Congress, Curtis was a partner and executive at Action Target, a Provo company that helps design and manufacture shooting ranges. The use of assault rifles, he believes, could be effectively controlled by limiting high-capacity magazines.

Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican who was a high school history teacher and an NRA lobbyist in the Utah Capitol before being elected to Congress, was unavailable for comment. Requests to GOP Rep. Chris Stewart’s office were not returned.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee, speaking to the Utah Senate on Thursday, said there’s no “meaningful way to distinguish” between the AR-15 and many hunting rifles, making a ban difficult. Gun-rights advocate Clark Aposhian said that’s not quite right. Legally, he noted, hunting rifles can’t carry more than four rounds, and they fire less rapidly because of greater recoil.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) "There is not, as far as I can tell, a meaningful way to distinguish between an AR-15 and a hunting rifle," said Utah Sen.ÊMike Lee, R-Utah after being questioned by Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City as to why America needs AR-15's during Lee's visit to both houses at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Still, he supported the senator’s remarks and the president’s.

“President Trump was unusually and refreshingly bold in his statement,” Aposhian added.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, though, blasted the idea of arming educators.

“I think this is inane, and I don’t think there is one person in this [Democratic] caucus who disagrees with that. It’s crazy,” he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, signed on to a bipartisan bill in December that would bolster the federal database for firearms background checks — which came after a mass shooting in Nevada and another in Texas. His spokesman Matt Whitlock said Thursday that he remains focused on that proposal and others that “address the underlying causes and flaws in the system.”

— Reporters Lee Davidson and Taylor W. Anderson contributed to this story.