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Georgia Lieutenant Governor Planning to Arm Teachers

In the next state legislative session, Lt. Governor Burt Jones is hoping to convince Georgia lawmakers to spend more money to increase school safety arming teachers and school faculty, in every school district, with guns. The funding will include mandatory psych evaluations, firearms training and an annual stipend which pays teachers who carry a firearms training certificate $10,000.

Georgia Lt. Governor Burt Jones at Austin Road Elementary on Oct. 25, 2023 discussing school safety proposals in Winder, Ga. If teachers become firearm trained he will pay them $10,000 in order to carry guns on school campus’s. (Credit: Jeff Amy)

Arming teachers with firearms is not a new concept as formerGeorgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill in July 2014 that would lift gun restrictions formally in churches, government buildings and bars. This law required a person with written permission in public or private schools to carry to carry firearms.

Math Chair, Amanda Porter said, “Money is always a nice incentive, but I don’t think that offering money for carrying a weapon is a good message to send.” Students at RHS feel much the same way. Claire Wolf, a freshman at RHS felt unsafe by the thought of her teacher’s carrying guns in school said, “I don’t think that should be allowed because they’re teachers and educators, not security guards, so that doesn’t give them a right to carry a gun and it is unsafe.” Katelyn Willis, a sophomore, agreed and said, “They shouldn’t carry a gun on campus, that isn’t safe because it could get stolen, and an accident could happen.”

However, in Laurens County they have had success with the program. Implemented in 2020, Laurens County was the first in Georgia to arm teachers. Laurens County Superintendent Clifford Garnto said, “We are fairly unique in our situation. We are the third largest county in Georgia in respect to land mass. This creates a substantial response time for law enforcement. If the unfortunate ever happens, we will have an immediate response in lieu of waiting on the nearest officer to arrive.”

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Garnto explained that six to eight employees per school have access to a weapon under a two-lock system. “Members of our school Response Team are required to submit to a psychological assessment prior to field training,” said Garnto. “If the psychological is passed, each member enters into a week of training which includes firearm, first aid and safety.” Garnto said, “Each member must pass firearm qualifications with the same standard as law enforcement.” Superintendent Garnto believes in the program and said, “but I also know that there has to be community buy-in as well as a great relationship between the school system and law enforcement for it to be successful.”

Waller Austin, husband of mass shooter survivor Whitney Austin and co-founder and project manager at Whitney/Strong, said it’s “dumbfounding asking poor teachers to volunteer to do an $80,000 job in addition to their $30k job for a $10k supplement.” The class to obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License costs $55 and is 2-3 hours long. “This is not sufficient for me as a parent,” said Austin.

According to Austin, “Whitney/Strong does endorse the presence of security resource officer teams in schools. These roles require nuanced training. Teachers wear lots of hats, but this one is clearly the most dangerous. Not to mention how it drastically changes the student-teacher dynamic when the adult is armed… I imagine kids feel imprisoned.”

Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators agrees, and said, “Teachers should not be armed in the classroom. We are not there to serve as law enforcement and introducing more firearms into the school is not a way to solve the problem of violence in our schools.” The GAE will boycott all attempts to arm teachers in Georgia,

With the Fulton County Superintendent’s office failing to comment, it is hard to gauge the response of local school officials. As for community buy-in, Roswell mother of three, Katherine Sumner, said that she hopes that Fulton County fights Lt. Governor Jones’ plans. She said, “We should be trying to keep guns out of schools, not bring more in. By arming teachers, you are only encouraging school shooters to obtain more deadly weapons, which will only lead to more casualties and escalate the types of guns that the teachers have access to. It will be a vicious and deadly cycle.”

The Georgia General Assembly will meet from Jan 2024 until late March to set the state’s annual operating budget and propose new laws. If Lt. Governor Jones’ plan passes, GA taxpayers could see a sizable increase in their state taxes, it will also set a national precedent regarding gun laws and schools. With the support of politicians like former President Donald Trump and organizations like the National Rifle Association, arming teachers has been a conversation that has been gaining traction for the past five years. After the shooting in March at the Covenant School in Nashville, the NRA tweeted and said, “School security is a deterrent. It is time to prioritize school security and safeguard our children.”

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About the Contributor
Katie Ross Nelson, Staff Writer
Katie Ross Nelson is a freshman at Roswell and is a first year staff writer for The Sting. When she is not writing, she enjoys playing lacrosse, watching movies, hanging out with her friends and family, and reading.

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