Gun violence draws reactions in Maine, N.H., Vt.
NORWICH (AP) -- Hoping to generate support in the Legislature for more gun control in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, a Vermont group wants to ask voters at Town Meeting Day in March if they support a ban on assault weapons.
In New Hampshire, the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards in schools drew a frosty reaction from the superintendent of one of the state’s biggest school districts. And in Maine, a legislator’s proposal to allow teachers and administrators to bring guns to school as a protection against gunmen got a quick thumbs-down from police.
"At first blush, I would have to say that’s a terrible idea," Portland police Chief Michael Sauschuck said of the idea to arm teachers. Sauschuck told the Portland Press Herald that teachers should teach, and that fewer guns, not more, are the answer to gun violence that’s become a central issue since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said educators lack the extensive training needed to respond to potentially violent situations.
In Vermont, a group that includes a state representative, a police chief, educators, mental health professionals and a licensed gun dealer met in Norwich this week to discuss options to end gun violence.
Norwich Selectboard Chairman Christopher Ashley, a former school principal, said lawmakers need evidence of support for stricter gun control before taking action. The group agreed that the best way to reach a large number of people was to petition to place a question on Town Meeting ballots.
State Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, whose wife is a school administrator in the Northeast Kingdom, told the Valley News he doesn’t support the idea of arming teachers. Asking teachers and administrators to be firearms experts is beyond what they should be expected to do, he said.
Manchester, N.H., schools superintendent Tom Brennan told WMUR-TV that it’s time to think about options other than suggesting more guns in schools. Brennan said educators he’s spoken to don’t have much of an appetite for armed guards in the classroom or for teachers to be armed themselves.
The Maine Education Association expressed a similar view in a statement that said there’s no place for guns in schools.
"It is our job as educators to ensure the safety of our children, and that means focusing on prevention of gun violence in our schools. Right now schools are safe places," said Lois Kilby-Chesley a teacher and MEA president.
State Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, plans to introduce a bill to allow concealed-weapons permit holders, including teachers and school administrators, to bring guns to public schools in Maine. He called schools "soft targets" that would be better protected by his bill. Jeff Weinstein, a former Yarmouth School Committee member who is president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, agrees.
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