Local educator reacts to Trump saying some teachers should be armed

Keith Williams (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Keith Williams (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Enhancing school security remains top of mind for many lawmakers in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

President Donald Trump said the solution to end classroom massacres is to arm some of America's teachers with concealed weapons.

On Thursday, Trump added that firearm-savvy staff could be given "a little bit of a bonus" for carrying weapons on campus.

"Letting people know that there are people in the building with guns you won't have, in my opinion, you won't have these shootings. Because these people are cowards. They are not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns," Trump said.

The president's solution met with backlash from some gun violence experts, educators, and school safety advocates immediately.

"We are not lieutenants. We are not sergeants. We are not police officers. We are educators. We disseminate knowledge and not weaponry," Keith Williams, executive director of Memphis Shelby County Education Association, said.

But in reaction to the Sandy Hook school shooting, Tennessee lawmakers passed School Security Act of 2013.

This law, signed by Governor Bill Haslam, essentially follows Trump's recommendation allowing Tennessee school systems to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, like training.

Arkansas passed a similar law in 2015, which allows all Arkansas school districts to apply to the Arkansas State Police for permission to arm teachers and staff.

"Why would we entertain the thought of the idea of teachers of being armed? What happens? Where are those weapons housed? Who would have access to them? What if a child got one?" Williams asked.

Those fears and concerns were echoed by parents and even grandparents.

Joyce Brown, a grandmother of five and great-grandmother of three, worries for the future of those children.

Brown agrees arming teachers is not the solution to safety.

"Banning assault weapons. There is no reason for someone to have an assault rifle. None what so ever. They're for killing people. They are a weapon of war," she said.

Rather than arming educators, Williams believes the solution comes from increasing mental health resources and through more engagement with the family.

But, schools across the country could potentially no longer be gun free zones for the protection of children.

Trump also voiced support for raising the minimum age for buying certain guns from 18 to 21, and enhanced background checks for people purchasing firearms.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to Mid-South schools about this issue on Thursday. DeSoto County Schools released the following statement:

"Our School Resource Officers are armed police officers employed by our local law enforcement agencies.  By being present in our schools, they are able to prevent problems in a proactive manner."

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