AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The lieutenant governor of Texas called Friday for state-funded, specialized firearms training for teachers and administrators to guard against school shootings.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the latest politician to suggest arming teachers or other school officials in the wake of the mass shooting of 20 children and six adults at Connecticut elementary school last month.
Lawmakers in South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota are looking into legislation that would allow teachers and other school employees to have guns. A rural school district in Ohio drew attention Friday with its plan to arm a handful of its non-teaching employees with handguns this year — perhaps even janitors.
On the other side of America's divisive debate over gun violence, arms control advocates have stepped up demands to ban assault rifles and implement other restrictions on buying and owning guns.
Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting with groups this week to develop policy recommendations on how to prevent more tragedies. The proposals are expected to include calls for universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The National Rifle Association, the country's most powerful gun lobby, has rejected any further restrictions on gun purchases or ownership and called for armed guards in every school in America.
Gun rights supporters fear that prohibiting assault weapons could pave the way for wider bans that would violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizens to keep arms. Gun control advocates say the Second Amendment was never intended to protect ownership of military-style guns like the AR-15 rifle used in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.
Dewhurst, a Republican, said school districts would nominate who they wanted to carry weapons on campus. The training would be more extensive than what is required for a Texas concealed handgun license and include how to react technically and emotionally in an active shooter situation.
"God forbid we should have an active shooter crisis in our schools," Dewhurst said. "Eight hours of instruction and two hours on the range is not sufficient."
Dewhurst offered no other details of his plan on Friday any specifics of what the training should include. The amount of state funding needed would depend on the number of school districts that participate and how many people want the training. School districts would not be required to participate.
Dewhurst has a concealed handgun license and made his comments in a speech to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Texas is a state where gun ownership is typically embraced. Concealed handgun license holders are allowed to bring weapons into the state Capitol and don't have to pass through security metal detectors.
Although state law generally bans guns from schools, school districts may grant teachers and staff permission to carry weapons on to campus if they are licensed.
But lawmakers don't pass every gun bill that gets proposed. In 2011, most of the state's lawmakers signed on in support of a bill allowing concealed weapons into college classrooms, but the bill failed without a final vote in the Republican-majority House.
Dewhurst said his plan would not be a mandate for more guns in schools, but would allow school districts to seek the state's help in guarding against a mass shooter.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said concealed handgun license holders should be allowed to carry their weapons wherever they want. A Perry spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on Dewhurst's proposal.
In Ohio, four school employees in Montpelier have agreed to take a weapons training course and carry their own guns inside the district's one building, which houses 1,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, school officials said.
The Toledo Blade newspaper reported that the employees were janitors, but school officials would not confirm that to The Associated Press, saying only that they are employees who don't have direct supervision over the students in the northwest Ohio district.
The four employees who will carry guns all volunteered to take part, Superintendent Jamie Grime said Friday The school plans to pay for them to attend a two-day training course.
Montpelier school officials began reviewing security plans after the Newtown tragedy and decided teachers should not be armed because their first priority in an emergency should be locking doors and protecting students, Grime said. The school already has security cameras and locked doors, and requires visitors to be buzzed into the front entrance.
The proposal was not announced until just before the board voted unanimously Wednesday to arm a select group of employees after consulting with the local police chief and attorneys who reviewed Ohio's concealed carry law. The law prohibits guns in schools except in a few cases, and allows education boards to authorize someone to carry a gun inside schools.
A letter was sent out to parents after the vote. Only three complained, while close to 150 called or sent emails supporting the idea in Montpelier, a remote city of about 4,000 residents.
"It's a place where people hold the Second Amendment close to their hearts," the superintendent said.
Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, and John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this story.