Following last year’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers across the country began preparing legislation that would allow school employees and administrators to be armed. Although the debate continues to rage on, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said he is opposed to the idea.
In January, Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, authored legislation that would allow school boards to grant permission to one or more administrators to carry a weapon at school, at school functions or on a bus. They would need to qualify each year and complete a peace officer training course. The bill does not require that administrators be armed, but allows for the possibility.
Several days after Battles announced his plan, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said he predicted the law would pass the state legislature, according to the Associated Press.
"Educators need to focus on educating the students and allow law enforcement officers to carry out their responsibilities. However, we are all team players when it comes to education and school safety," said Brown.
The Newton County Board of Education had previously discussed this very topic during their Jan. 22 meeting. While discussing their legislative priorities, District 2 representative Eddie Johnson expressed a desire to add to the priorities something that would prohibit the use of handguns on school property by educators and allow it only for law enforcement officers. While Johnson said he was in favor of taking "a leading role" in letting legislators know the BOE’s stance, other members were not so keen. Coggin said she was not ready to make that decision, and District 4 representative Almond Turner called the suggestion "premature." Ultimately the board agreed on the priorities without Johnson’s suggested addition.
"I’m but one opinion, but I do favor trained and armed school resource officers on school premises," said Newton County School Superintendent Gary Mathews. "However, I do not favor armed administrators, trained or not. As it is now, school administrators (and teachers) are called upon to be just about everything one can imagine in schools. It’s too much."