Gwinnett sheriff offered gun training for teachers

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Channel 2's Lauren Pozen spoke to students who think it's a good idea to train teachers.

As the national debate about gun violence in schools continues since the February mass shooting of 17 people at a high school in Florida, the idea of arming teachers has re-emerged. No metro Atlanta public schools allow firearms on campus except for school police officers. But in case that proposal ever becomes policy, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said he wants educators to be trained and ready.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff's office held a firearms training seminar for teachers on Saturday, as thousands of students and others marched across the country seeking gun-control legislation.

Three-hundred teachers, as well as bus drivers, custodians, front office personnel and other school workers had registered for the Sheriff’s Office’s “Responsible Carry for Educators” seminar on Saturday.

According to the announcement on Facebook, the class was designed to train teachers how to carry and use guns. Eventually that invitation was extended to all school personnel and then to any educator, anywhere. A little less than 100 attended.

The Sheriff’s Office said the training would cover weapon selection, holster and accessory options, situational awareness and Georgia laws dealing with carrying firearms on school grounds, using deadly force, open- and concealed-carry regulations and civil consequences related to the use of a firearm. Officials also covered federal laws on the subject.

Shortly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, President Donald Trump suggested arming teachers. "History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes," Trump said in a tweet. "It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive."

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Master Deputy Don Black discusses firearm safety Saturday with a participant in the Responsible Firearms Carry and Safety class taught by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office. Channel 2 Action News

Master Deputy Don Black discusses firearm safety Saturday with a participant in the Responsible Firearms Carry and Safety class taught by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office. Channel 2 Action News

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Master Deputy Don Black discusses firearm safety Saturday with a participant in the Responsible Firearms Carry and Safety class taught by the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office. Channel 2 Action News

Some saw the idea as preposterous, other said they thought it had merits.

“My classroom is right at the front of the building. If anything were to occur, I would be right there in the middle of it, and it’s scary we have to consider that,” Pharr Elementary School special education teacher Missy Zabarac said Saturday at the seminar.

But being holed up inside a classroom, hoping a shooter doesn’t see anyone didn’t sound like a good idea to Zabarac. She told WSBTV’s Wendy Halloran that she’s been exposed to guns while growing up.

Floyd County businessman and school board member Jay Shell in a Facebook post suggested arming teachers as a way to increase safety in schools. The weekend after the Florida shooting his post said volunteer teachers could undergo ‘psychiatric evaluations and firearms training.’ It became part of a discussion last month at the Floyd County Board of Education meeting.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten feels differently.

In a letter inviting President Trump to discuss the proposal of arming teachers, he wrote, “Schools need to be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Your proposal to arm teachers not only would make our children’s classrooms less safe, but also is not what educators and students want.”

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