Should teachers and other school staff members be allowed to carry concealed weapons in school? It's a conversation one Bedford County Supervisor says state lawmakers need to have.
Monday night, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 in favor of a request by Supervisor John Sharp to include this issue on their annual list of "legislative priorities" -- a group of policy directives they call on state lawmakers to act upon during their upcoming session.
Sharp says it stems from a conversation he and other board members had with Sheriff Mike Brown in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Brown asked the board for additional school resource officers -- but supervisors turned him down, pointing to the high costs of his request. Sharp says it got him thinking, though, about alternative ways they could help protect schools.
"We recognized the reason the sheriff is asking for that is because the state has made our schools gun-free zones," said Sharp. "They have decided to disarm our teachers."
He believes teachers and staff members who choose to get concealed carry permits and who go through the proper training should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in schools. State law currently prohibits that -- which is why he now wants state lawmakers to put that decision in the hands of local governments.
"I'm not asking to arm teachers," said Sharp. "I'm not trying to put a lot of guns in the classroom. I'm not even sure how exactly it would look. I'm just asking for that decision to be made at the local level."
He says he's well aware this is a controversial issue and admits it will be tough for his idea to gain much traction in Richmond. But he says for now, the end result isn't as important as starting the conversation.
"I would like to at least have Richmond put it on their radar and discuss it," said Sharp. "I think it's worthy of discussion."
It appears he's already been successful in getting people to discuss the issue. As of 7:45pm, nearly 300 people commented on the WSLS 10 facebook page.
"Absolutely not" wrote Barbara Riley. "No guns anywhere near children. What if a child gets mad and grabs the gun from the teacher's side, or desk, or anywhere else they have a concealed weapon? That person can do a lot of damage. There is a time and a place for everything and school is not the place."
"It is a great idea!" wrote Greg Calhoun. "Creating a "protected " environment for the children instead of a gun free zone where predators are allowed free run with a gun. Proper training and psychological background checks would be a MUST. Do not rush into this but make it happen. The children would also learn respect and knowledge about firearms because of this. They are part of what makes this country great and should be taught as such."