School teachers in Texas and Ohio are flocking to free firearms classes in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre, some vowing to protect their students with guns even at the risk of losing their jobs.
In Ohio, more than 900 teachers, administrators and school employees asked to take part in the Buckeye Firearms Association's newly created, three-day gun training program, the association said.
In Texas, an $85 Concealed Handgun License (CHL) course offered at no cost to teachers filled 400 spots immediately, forcing the school to offer another class, one instructor said.
"Any teacher who is licensed and chooses to be armed should be able to be armed," said Gerald Valentino, co-founder of the Buckeye Firearms Association. "It should be every teacher's choice."
The Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., sparked a national debate about whether to arm teachers, prompting passionate arguments on both sides.
The deaths of 6- and 7-year-old school children led President Barack Obama to promise "meaningful action" to curtail gun violence, while the National Rifle Association has advocated arming teachers and placing trained guards in each of the country's 100,000 schools.
Ohio and Texas are not the first to offer no-cost arms training to teachers. Just days after the Connecticut mass murder, some 200 teachers in Utah underwent free instruction from gun activists.
Critics ridicule arming teachers as a foolhardy idea promoted by overzealous gun enthusiasts, saying it would only add danger to the classroom while distracting teachers from their job of educating children.
Supporters say an armed teacher could have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook, where a 20-year-old man armed with a military-style assault rifle killed 20 children and six adults before killing himself.
"What we know is that these spree killers are looking for the highest death toll possible. They look for no-gun zones like schools," Valentino said. "It doesn't make sense that we guard our gold with guns and we guard our kids with hope."
The Buckeye Firearms Association, which successfully lobbied for 2004 legislation allowing people to carry concealed handguns, is offering all eligible state educators free admission to what it calls "an intensive three-day class where you will learn many of the same skills and tactics used by first responders." ...
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