Activists want Arlington teachers to be allowed to carry guns

ARLINGTON -- Two gun rights activists are proposing that Arlington teachers and administrators be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

The idea, which comes amid national debate about high-profile public shootings, was immediately opposed by some school officials, one of whom called it "dangerous."

David McElwee and Bill Sandlin, members of the National Rifle Association, said they would outline their proposal to the school board Thursday night. As of 10:30 p.m., they were still waiting their turn to pitch the idea.

Before the meeting, the men said they would make a case to trustees that school shootings are too unpredictable to prevent by beefing up security forces or technology.

"When someone bursts into a classroom ready to kill, it's too late," McElwee said. "It's over within five minutes."

He said the district should allow teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits to be armed at school after receiving additional crisis training.

Only one district in the state allows concealed weapons. The tiny Harrold school district near Wichita Falls became the first in the nation to allow armed employees in fall 2008, a protective measure that school officials supported because the district is at least 20 minutes from the nearest sheriff's station.

Two Arlington trustees said that armed teachers are not the best choice for their district.

"It's just dangerous, and it's not necessary," Trustee Wayne Ogle said before the meeting.

Ogle said the district contracts with the Arlington Police Department to keep officers at high schools and junior high schools.

"We're not an isolated district," he said. "At any given time of the day, a police officer is either on campus or literally seconds or minutes away."

During a break in the meeting, board Vice President Peter Baron said, "I don't think we need guns on campus."

Larry Shaw, executive director of the United Educators Association, said the teachers union has no official position but added that he personally thought it would be unwise for Arlington to be "the testing ground for such a project."

"We have police officers" on campuses, Shaw said. "And most of our people have no place to conceal a weapon when they're actively teaching."

McElwee countered that various types of holsters are designed to be easily concealed, including leg holsters.

The state's concealed-weapons law allows weapons to be carried at schools and at off-campus school activities only if the district's school board provides written authorization. However, guns cannot be brought into any government meeting under the law.

The question is rarely asked of the Texas Education Agency, spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. The agency would refer district officials to the statutes, "and for further clarification or information, a district should consult with its attorney," she said.

McElwee, a retired schoolteacher, said his biggest opponent is what he considers to be an irrational fear of guns.

"Most educators I've spoken with are opposed to it," he said. "They say, 'Well, suppose a teacher goes crazy?'

"If that is the only argument, that doesn't say much for the human resources department and the management in those schools. You could also make the argument, 'What if the school resource officer goes crazy?'"

But he added that he was not pitching his plan as a fail-safe, partly because it is doubtful that all teachers would carry weapons.

"There is no such thing as 100 percent security," he said. "All this does is add a few percentage points to school safety."