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NC lawmakers talk about bill that would arm teachers in classrooms

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Supporters of a bill that could allow teachers to carry a concealed handgun at school want legislative leaders to bring the issue up for a vote before the legislative session ends, even as polling shows most teachers oppose the idea.

Republican House members who sponsored the School Self-Defense Act, held a press conference Tuesday, acknowledging the low likelihood that the bill would pass this year.

“I always respond to that with a question, if you’re afraid of controversy what are you doing in Raleigh? That’s the way I feel about that. A lot of things we do are controversial,” said Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus).

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Under the Republicans’ proposal, school staff members would be eligible to carry a gun if they have a concealed carry permit.

They would have to go through 16 hours of active shooter training. The gun would have to remain concealed “except when responding to violence or an imminent threat of violence at the school.”

“The possibility of active shooters encountering armed faculty members, we are hoping to deter violent crime,” said Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina.

Elon University released a poll of 379 North Carolina public school teachers in March and found 78 percent of them said allowing teachers to carry guns in school is “mostly a bad idea.” Meanwhile, 18 percent viewed it as a good idea.

“I’ve seen times when children have gotten into our purses. They get into our personal belongings,” said Cheryl Carter-Ellis, who worked as a teacher’s assistant in Wake County for a decade. “So, I just can’t imagine a child getting hold of a gun and what might happen.”

Jean Fitzsimmons, a retired teacher and U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Catawba County, supports the idea of arming teachers but says he also acknowledges the risks.

“I don’t want it to be just me bare-handed,” said Fitzsimmons. “If you were the last chance for your kids in your classroom, would you want to have a firearm or not to defend your children? You bet I would.”

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