Cynthia Ladd is a firearms trainer for the National Rifle Association who believes women need to protect themselves by packing a gun and knowing when and how to use it.
She opposes restricting gun ownership or owning military-style rifles, despite mass shootings like that which took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month.
“They keep blaming the gun and not the person,” said Ladd. “I don’t want someone to say what I can and can’t defend myself with.”
Ladd spoke out at a weekend gun show in Mankato, Minnesota, where folks talked about President Trump’s suggestion that “gun-adept” teachers be allowed to carry concealed weapons in their classrooms to protect students and receive an annual bonus for doing so.
To support the president’s idea, Ladd said, she’d offer free training to teachers in Minnesota who want to learn how to handle and use a gun as part of her Lady Liberty Firearms Training program she recently started.
“I just want to give them the information,” said Ladd. “What they choose to do with it is their choice.”
Trump made his suggestion to arm teachers in response to the Parkland school massacre, but he refined it over the weekend by saying execution of the idea was up to the states and not the federal government.
What he didn’t say was that 19 states already allow teachers to carry concealed weapons if local school officials authorize the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teachers in at least five of those states currently carry firearms, the organization added.
Texas is a teacher gun state. Barbara Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her group knows “of at least 172 districts that allow staff to carry firearms.”
Craig Bessent, assistant superintendent at an Abilene, Texas, school, said arming teachers is a good idea even though special trained employees known as school marshals roam the hallways already. Their weapons are locked and secured within quick reach on school premises.
Teacher associations generally oppose teachers carrying concealed weapons in schools. Some organizations, such as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said it is polling members on the issue. Most teachers asked about the issue say they prefer greater safety measures to gun-toting teachers, including more armed security officers and police presence.
“You’re trying to stop school violence by potentially adding another element of violence to the school,” said Michael Thomas, band director for Valdosta High School in Georgia.
“If the student has an assault weapon and a teacher has a handgun, what good is that going to do?” asked Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers.
In contrast, lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering legislation to allow the arming of teachers. Sponsors of the measure say schools in small towns and rural areas need the added protection because they can’t afford to hire fulltime security officers.
Dr. Peter Langman, a psychologist who has researched the mindset of school shooters, said the idea of arming teachers to seriously deter them is unrealistic. He said police officers miss their targets four out of five shots -- and the statistic for teachers would be even worse despite occasional training.
“For some reason, the focus is on run, hide, fight,” said Langman. “That’s fine, but none of it is prevention.”
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb appeared to agree. He said there’s a significant difference between a person trained to safely use a firearm and being prepared to take a human life under tremendous stress.
“I’m sure there are some teachers, staff and so forth that would be very capable.” said Holcomb. “But I believe a slow and deliberative approach would be absolutely necessary, approved by each local school board.”
School board approval or even a bonus, Kristen Frazier, an eighth grade teacher in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, said Trump’s suggestion draws a line between teaching and security she won’t cross.
“The day they ask me to carry a gun in the classroom is the last day I teach,” she told the Boston Globe. “Period. End of story.”
Details for this story were provided by CNHI state reporters.