In the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 victims and spurred a range of proposals on how to curb gun violence, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said on March 3 that arming teachers with guns is not the solution.
It is a felony in New York to carry a weapon on school grounds unless a district’s Board of Education authorizes a person to do so, Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said at a news conference. Standing alongside school officials, students and other gun-control advocates in the library of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, he introduced legislation that would allow only law enforcement, security guards and school resource officers to carry firearms.
The legislation would ensure that New York teachers would not be required to carry guns in the classroom even if federal restrictions on guns in school zones are lifted, Kaminsky said.
His push for the bill came after President Trump voiced support for arming teachers who are “firearms adept” and giving them annual training, noting in a tweet that it would be “up to states.”
Scott Reif, a State Senate Republican spokesman, labeled Kaminsky’s efforts grandstanding, and recommended that he help them fight to pass a school safety package.
“No one in New York is proposing to arm school teachers, and he knows it,” Reif said in a statement. “In fact, Senator Flanagan is adamantly opposed, and thinks teachers should be allowed to focus on teaching.”
But the Republican-controlled Senate voted against the bill on Monday. Kaminsky wrote on his Facebook page, “We should all be outraged that the Senate Majority voted against it.”
“I think you have to be absolutely crazy to think that [arming teachers] would solve anything,” said Sharon Powers, Long Beach Central Council PTA co-president. “I would never send my children to school if I thought the teachers had guns.”
Powers said that arming teachers would open up the possibility of students getting caught in the crossfire if a gunfight ensued, and that even having a discussion about potentially arming teachers is “outrageous.”
“I’m glad [Kaminsky] proposed this, because maybe you have to — because the things that are obvious are not so obvious anymore,” Powers said.
She said that guns in the classrooms would hypothetically have to be locked away, which would create an opportunity for students to find the key and take possession of them.
“When we decide to arm teachers, we are implicitly saying that there is nothing that can be done,” Kaminsky said. “It’s a cop-out. It’s saying we know that someone who shouldn’t will get their hands on a very dangerous weapon and come into our schools. We cannot let that be the first thing we say after a mass shooting.”
Long Beach’s interim schools superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Gallagher, said she supported Kaminsky’s proposed legislation.
“There is no evidence that arming teachers would reduce school shootings,” Gallagher said. “Teachers are not trained to assess threat situations, and even trained law enforcement officers frequently miss their intended targets in shootings. Placing that type of responsibility on teachers actually would increase the risk of inadvertent harm to students and staff.”
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea-Stewart Cousins echoed Kaminsky’s call for common-sense gun laws, as did Democratic State Senators Leroy Comrie, who represents Queens, Brian Kavanagh, of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and John Brooks, of Seaford, who visited South Side’s packed library.
“As a first responder, I understand the need for training and communication at these kinds of incidents,” Brooks said. “The last thing you’d want to do is respond to an incident like this, and you’re given information that there are active shooters in the school and we’ve got six armed teachers looking for them.”
Last week, the Senate voted against bills that would have implemented more extensive background checks, established extreme risk protection orders, and banned bump stocks in New York state.
Members of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America stood shoulder to shoulder with the Democratic lawmakers with signs, as did South Side High School student Katie Ralph, whose placard read, “You’re afraid we’ll take your guns — we’re afraid you’ll take our friends.”
“They’re not going away,” Rockville Centre Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said of the student activists. “These kids are committed to change the world. . . . We as adults have not figured out how to make it better. They’re figuring it out, and they’re going to do it.”