published Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Georgia bill would let principals carry guns

  • photo
    Georgia state Representative Tom Dickson (R Cohutta)
    Photo by Jessica Lowry

Georgia firearm bill
Georgia firearm bill

Though the Georgia General Assembly hasn't yet convened in 2013, a proposed law to arm school principals already is receiving skepticism from some North Georgia educators and lawmakers.

Since the December killing of 20 students and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school, states and school districts have looked for ways to beef up security and prevent another such disaster. Tennessee lawmakers have proposed adding more school resource officers and pitched the idea of allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons.

Georgia Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, has filed one of several gun bills in the Assembly. His bill would allow local boards of education to approve one or more administrators to carry firearms at schools, school functions and on buses.

But allowing weapons in schools has raised many more questions about school safety.

"Most teachers and most administrators want to focus on educating the kids," said Dade County Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin.

He said he's worried about an accidental shooting from armed teachers and staff. And, he wonders whether such a proposal would balloon a district's insurance rates, or make it hard to find coverage.

"People don't think about the insurance aspect," he said.

Tobin doesn't like the idea of teachers carrying weapons en masse. And while he said he'll always be hesitant about guns in schools, he said he may be more confident in a proposal like Battles' that is aimed at arming only administrators.

Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said even responsible gun owners may not be trained enough to handle a crisis situation at a school. Governments spend millions to train police and military members for such situations, Dickson said. And without similar training, he's not sure teachers or principals should carry weapons in schools.

"Even though they're mature adults with degrees doesn't mean they're prepared for the kinds of rapid-fire, split-second decisions that have to be made," he said. "That's the concern I have."

Dickson is a retired teacher, principal and district administrator. He most recently worked as superintendent of Whitfield County Schools. While the shooting in Newtown, Conn., was horrific, Dickson is wary of reacting too strongly.

"It was a tragic shooting in Connecticut," he said. "But you have to be careful that you don't make knee-jerk reactions."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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