Oregon

Armed And Educated

East Oregonian | Dec. 25, 2012 2:35 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 25, 2012 10:35 p.m.

Contributed By:

PHIL WRIGHT

None

Daily Astorian

A Hermiston gun store owner has offered free concealed handgun classes to local teachers and school administrators.

Nick Goit, owner and operator of Eastern Oregon Tactical, 138 E. Main St., Hermiston, said about 40 people have said they are interested in taking the class.

“I’ve seen an overwhelming support for teachers to carry guns,” he said, and probably will have to hold the permit classes through February.

Goit made the offer Saturday on the social networking website Facebook in reaction to Friday’s deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 students, six teachers and himself.

Goit said while he couldn’t help that community, perhaps he could make his own schools safer, and arming teachers and school administrators may do that.

Local schools have policies against guns on campuses, but Goit claimed Oregon has no law prohibiting concealed weapon permit holders from carrying a gun at school.

“It is totally legal,” he stressed. And if teachers don’t take heat to school, Goit said his action could at least start a conversation between teachers and school policy makers about the value of arming staff.

So far, he said, plenty of people have told him his idea is great. As of Thursday he had 35 comments under the announcement on the Facebook page. Nearly all are in favor, including posts from teachers.

No one was available at Hermiston School District, which went on winter break Wednesday.

The Hermiston School District’s “Weapons in the Schools” policy states that students cannot bring guns and other weapons to school. And the district abides by the 1990 Gun-Free School Zone Act, which prohibits possession or discharge of a firearm on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school grounds. Law enforcement personnel can bring guns onto school property, and the superintendent may authorize others to have guns on school grounds, such as for a hunter safety course or weapons-related sports.

Dave Fiore was a teacher in La Pine and is the union representative for local public school teachers. He said the Oregon Education Association has not issued a statement about guns and schools, so he could not speak for the union. But personally, he said, he was against arming teachers and administrators.

“I think it would just create more havoc in schools because people would know there are people in the building with guns,” he said, including mentally ill people looking for a bloody confrontation.

Teachers are already busy doing their job, Fiore said, and it didn’t make sense to add to that list the ability to shoot well in a deadly crisis. There could also be deadly consequences.

“I don’t know how you could defend a [union] member who shot a kid who carried a water gun,” he said. “How would they feel, and how could I defend that?”

State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, announced Monday a proposal to have two or three armed, experienced and trained volunteers in every school. These “campus responders,” Richardson said in a written statement, “would enable immediate response with lethal force if and when the lives of our children and teachers were endangered by a mass murderer.”

Fiore contended Oregon doesn’t need Richardson’s proposal and instead needs a “reasoned discussion about how to lessen gun violence in schools.”

Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said if schools decided to allow teachers to carry guns on school property, he would hope law enforcement would be part of the conversation. He also said discussions about school shootings cannot ignore mental health services.

“The issue is greater than guns,” Edmiston said.

Sheriff’s offices approve concealed handgun permits. Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo gave kudos to citizens who complete the training, obtain the permit and carry a gun legally. But then they have ask themselves some tough questions.

“When it gets right down to taking another human being’s life, are you ready to take that step? And are you ready to live with the ramifications if you’ve done it?” Trumbo said. “You have to be 100 percent sure to take that step.”

Packing a gun is a significant responsibility, he said. Hesitating for a moment during a gun fight can cost a life. And if a shooting is justified, people who pull the trigger often face lawsuits and pay an emotional price.

“A lot of times,” Trumbo said, “people don’t think about that.”

Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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