Lawmaker-elect Pike enters gun debate

18th District Republican might draft bill to allow armed teachers

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoLiz Pike, Republican Rep.-elect for 18th District

If teachers had guns and knew how to use them, schools would be safer, state Rep.-elect Liz Pike, R-Camas, said this week.

Just weeks away from her first legislative session, Pike has announced on Facebook that she is considering drafting a bill that would allow teachers to take a weeklong gun training course at their own expense. Teachers could then buy their own guns and bring them to school if they choose to, Pike said.

The proposal is one idea being floated by politicians across the state as the nation debates how to protect students from mass shootings such as the one in which a gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults on Dec. 14 at a school in Newtown, Conn. Recently, the National Rifle Association called for placing more armed officers in schools, while others are calling for an assault firearms ban and for a critique of violent video games.

Some educators and politicians in Clark County balked at Pike's idea to let teachers be armed.

"Bringing guns into the learning environment is absolutely the wrong approach," state Rep.-elect Monica Stonier, a teaching coach in Evergreen Public Schools, said Thursday. Stonier said she supports current gun laws, and that public schools make safety a top priority.

"I have been working in schools for 10 years, and we run a variety of safety drills for a variety of emergency situations," Stonier said. If a

stranger enters a school, "they are approached by several adults in a very short amount of time."

Ellen Joslin, president of the Battle Ground Education Association, a teacher's union, said she is personally opposed to the idea of arming teachers. She said she worries about whether students could get their hands on the guns and whether teachers would be able to access their guns in time to make any difference.

"It seems to me like it would exacerbate the problem rather than solve the problem," Joslin said. "If somebody wanted to carry a gun at school, that would indicate to me that they are afraid, and the kids would feel that. … It doesn't make (for) a nurturing environment."

Pike said her bill would be modeled after the Federal Flight Deck Officers program, which allows some pilots and flight crew members to carry guns so they could defend against an airplane hijacking.

Currently, most public schools are gun-free zones. That makes educators and students "sitting ducks" if a shooter enters the school, Pike said. She also said she believes her idea would create no additional cost to taxpayers.

State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said on Thursday that he would need to research Pike's proposal before taking a stance on it. He said he could support more police in schools, if there was a way to pay for it, but arming teachers?

"I'd have to give that some serious, serious thought," said Harris, a former Evergreen school board member. When it comes to preventing school shootings, Harris added that he's yet to see a solution that addresses both sides of the issue.

Earlier this week, Pike took to social media to ask for feedback about her idea. She received more than 100 Facebook comments on the subject.

Some Facebook users said that they felt arming teachers would not make schools safer. Some even worried the guns could be taken away from the teachers and used against them. Others said arming teachers ultimately would protect children in schools.

"The notion is to warn potential mass murderers that any adult in a school is likely to be armed and ready to oppose them," wrote Paul Mulwitz, a Facebook user who supported Pike's idea.

Pike also wrote on Facebook that other Republicans in the legislature have "requested nearly identical draft legislation to address the important issue of gun violence in our public schools. I am confident that the best piece of legislation will come forward for all of us to discuss and weigh in on."

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com