Arm teachers? Bad idea, say L-A teachers, students


Lewiston High School math teacher Samantha Garnett Sias, shown in her class in September, said Friday that the NRA’s suggestion of arming teachers in response to school shootings is a bad one. Other teachers and students also said teachers should not be armed. (Sun Journal file photo)

LEWISTON — Giving teachers guns would be “absurd” and horrifying and would only lead to more violence, local educators and students said Friday.

President Donald Trump has echoed the National Rifle Association in saying that teachers ought to be armed to deter school shootings.


Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president and CEO, on Thursday decried schools as easy targets because they’re “gun-free zones” and said schools need more armed protection. LaPierre made those remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

Meeting with survivors of school shootings at the White House, Trump suggested teachers experienced with firearms could volunteer to carry guns in schools and be paid extra. 

“No, no, no,” said Amanda Winslow, principal of Farwell Elementary School in Lewiston. “I do not think educators should carry weapons.”

It would have unintended consequences that schools would not be prepared to deal with, Winslow said. “Carrying a weapon is not the answer.”

Edward Little High School student Leah Burtchell, 15, said more guns “would make the school feel less safe. What if someone got their hands on a gun? There would be a lot of chaos.”

During a school shooting, a police officer could mistake a gun-wielding teacher for the criminal, she said. Teachers “have not been through the training that law enforcement has. It could be extremely difficult for them to take a life, especially if the shooter is a student.”

Christa Wilcox, 16, a Lewiston High School junior, said teachers “didn’t sign up to be shooters. They signed up to be positive influences, to teach and educate, not to protect by means of violence.”

A student who wants to commit violence could get the teacher’s gun, or be more likely to go after the teachers with the guns to steal it or the ammunition, she said. More guns “is just more violence.”

Timothy Wegmann, a teacher at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn, called arming teachers “absurd.” Wegmann said he owns guns and has had some gun safety training, but not at the level that would be needed.

“Teachers respect police and understand how much training they go through for the difficult job they do,” Wegmann said. “Teachers would do anything to save our students. But as teachers, I can’t see any of us wanting to be taking a life.”

Instead of arming teachers, there should be a three-pronged approach to school shootings, said Lewiston High School teacher Samantha Garnett Sias.

“First, increase restrictions on gun control, namely assault rifles.” Assault weapons don’t belong in the hands of average citizens, she said.

Second, she said, appropriate resources are needed to answer the rising mental health needs of students. “Arm teachers with the support they need from school counselors, clinicians and other support staff.” Every student should have access to mental health professionals to help develop coping skills, Garnett Sias said.

Third, schools need to immediately re-evaluate safety procedures to ensure protocols for active-shooter situations are the safest course of action, she said. “The ‘sit-and-wait’ protocols need to be re-examined and updated.”

The possibility of facing an active-shooter scenario is a sad reality of the teaching profession, she said. The president’s response would only exacerbate a looming teacher shortage, Garnett Sias said, because many would quit. 

Ernie Gagne, a fifth-grade teacher at Geiger Elementary in Lewiston, said the subject is a sensitive one, and that he wasn’t sure how he felt about arming teachers. But, Gagne added, he’d prefer to have an armed veteran or retired police officer with the proper training be hired to protect students.

“Horrified” is how retired Lewiston High School teacher Joan Macri reacted to the idea of arming teachers. “I would definitely take a bullet for my students, but I would never fire a bullet,” she said.

During her 37-year career, she dealt with troubled teens. She was trained to defuse situations and protect students, she said.

Often administrators and the school resource officer would be there, “and I would be scared,” Macri said. “But each time we were able to calm things down so the teen could be escorted out of the building.”

Macri said, “I’m a hugger. Not a shooter.”


“Teachers would do anything to save our students. But as teachers I can’t see any of us wanting to be taking a life.” — Auburn Washburn Elementary School teacher Timothy Wegmann

  • FrankE

    I thought this discussion was settled a long time ago. Putting guns into the hands of teachers isn’t going to stop an active shooter situation. Especially if the shooter is armed with an assault rifle. Who could expect a normal teacher or anyone really going into a live shooting situation and not panic. It takes years of preparing and practice, not to mention proper equipment to attack a situation like that. The only thing that will be accomplished will be further death and possibly death by friendly fire. Look how much good the armed security guard did in this latest shooting. One person, armed with a normal side arm, and alone, is no match for a shooter with an assault rifle. If the shooter were stopped, it would’ve be one of the luckiest shots that guard ever made. I think he was justified in waiting for help, he probably would have gone ahead and accidentally shot another student. Panic and confusion is no place for an untrained person with a hand gun. Part of being prepared is knowing your limitations, and acting accordingly…………..

    • Blazen1910

      Assault rifle would be considered fully automatic (like a machine gun) an AR15 is semiautomatic. Just a shot to the head would take out the shooter. Either from the side or back.

    • samtu1974

      Very dumb assumptions a security guard is trained on the weapon. He would be able to handle it and not shoot anyone else. Again individuals with no knowledge trying to state unknown facts just to scare unknowing people.

      • FrankE

        This is for samtu and Blazen. First of all an Ar 15 is dangerous for the damage it inflicts, not how fast you can fire it. I’ve owned a couple Bushmaster 232’s and I can tell you from experience just being hit buy that shot is a lot more likely to be fatal than a handgun. Also, If your in a situation where a very high powered weapon is being fired (indoors), I don’t care how well your trained. you have high school kids running for cover and your in a confined space, It’s not so easy to line up a head shot. In fact chances are just hitting the proper target would be an accomplishment. Now keep in mind the security guard with his 9mm could shoot said shooter four to six times and not take him down, adrenaline has a way of making a person super human. One shot from an AR would be all it takes to rip your insides out. I happen to think the security guard was smart in not confronting the shooter alone. He would most likely have been number 18. It’s not as easy as it seems on TV…………..

        • samtu1974

          Again your opinion is just that. Sure that armed guard you think was smart could of stopped some of the murders but stayed outside to yours and all the others who think like you was a smart thing to do. I do not care how much training you think you have had I taught weapons for over twenty years. Tell me how times have the Swat teams been on time to save any lives. Opinions are just that you can make up all kinds of excuses and state all kinds of training they might have but are they evert there to stop anything.

          • samtu1974

            I am quite sure those teachers that got in front of students wished they would of had something in their hands, but we will never know from them anyway

          • FrankE

            If your so smart, why are almost every response to this question no guns for teachers. You can teach someone gun safety and gun handling till your blue in the face. Teaching someone to face an over powered foe is a whole different story. That takes conditioning. It’s more a mental thing than anything else. Just having a gun isn’t enough. Those teachers guarding all those students in locked rooms and closets, all those active shooter drills performed at the school, probably saved way more lives than any teacher with a gun would have saved………….

          • FrankE

            Just one more thought. If SWAT teams are so damn useless, why are they called to every serious situation. Having a gun is nice, being able to keep a clear, calm mind while firing it is essential……….

          • samtu1974

            Why because this like every other paper is full of liberal views and readers. If you look at any post on this paper you will see the same thing. If you are so smart on how much training needs to be done. Vote to have armed , trained guards in the schools if you don’t want that, keep the schools Gun free and advertise that you are open to any mentally ill person to come in and kill all he wants, The cops will get there in 10 minutes or more and stand outside to decide what to do. I say protect the children not disarm America. Those shooter drills worked great down there when the murder pulled the fire alarm the students did what they were supposed to do head out. This not a political view it is a common sense view to save children.

          • FrankE

            We’ve been through this a number of times already. I will concede that having someone who just happens to be in the right place at the right time and conditioned enough not to panic at the incredibly loud noise of the assault rifle, and is able to get a shot off, would be nice. It would be even nicer if that shot actually hit it’s target. All I’m saying is that you can’t expect unconditioned people of any background, to move head first into a life and death situation. It has nothing to do with saving children, a locked storeroom or closet will save far more lives.
            The fact of the matter is that a teacher or coach or even the janitor stopping a shooter in his tracks would be pure luck. You can’t plan on being in the right place and you more than likely won’t be in position until it’s all over. I say train teachers to protect themselves and the students and leave the gun fighting to the experts. That happens to be the general consensus in the paper these days, unless of course if your last name is Trump………

        • mainer18

          so the guard that didnt do his job thats been getting payed for protecting the kids should be getting sued by the parents of the victims if he had no plans for protecting he should be greeting at walmart

          • FrankE

            He knows a lot more than you do. Being an armchair security guard, it’s easy for you to assume a lot of things. Having not been there and not knowing all the facts, it’s irresponsible to make any judgments.

          • mainer18

            you are a real moron im assuming your disability is mental….

  • Rene Veilleux

    An absolutely demented idea, one that only the gun manufacturers could have come up with.

  • MaineCWP

    We have had countless numbers of Maine superintendents, principals, teachers and support staff in our NRA Certified courses. In Texas there are over 100 school districts where qualified trained teachers and staff are armed in a concealed manner either on their person or secured in bio-metric safes if the need to defend themselves, innocent students and staff should arise. All coordinated with Law Enforcement. One of the largest deterrents they say is removing Gun Free Zone signs (Soft Targets) with This Property is Protected With Armed Staff.

    Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard K. Jones offered free concealed carry training for 50 teachers and 250 teachers responded within 24 hours.

    For schools that allow armed staff on their property in Maine we offer free NRA Certified Training that will credential them to apply for their Multi-State Maine Concealed Handgun Permit.

    The NRA provides free of charge National School Shield Security Assessors nationwide that will identify weaknesses in public, parochial and private school physical deficiencies intruders view as inviting opportunities.

    • FrankE

      I’ve been called everything in the book for hating this idea. I don’t think you could reasonably expect a science teacher, even with gun safety training to be able to respond to a live shooter situation. It’s got nothing to do with aim or anything like that. It’s conditioning, live training such as police tactical teams train for constantly. There’s a reason SWAT teams continually practice, and a very good reason they don’t show up by themselves to a shooting armed with a 9mm glock. Conditioning is even more important than the type of weapon that’s used. Even the most skilled Swat member is going to be nervous, and that’s after years of extensive conditioning. Now what do you think the teacher is going to do???????????

      • Foolish reasoning. And while the SWAT team is mobilizing, in the hour + it takes to do that, defenseless students/teachers are being shot by an unchallenged, heavily armed and motivated nut job. The average active shooter scenario is over in less than 5 minutes.

        • FrankE

          I’m beginning to get bored with this topic. Why do you think the armed security guard didn’t immediately enter the area of the shooting. The answer is, he was no where near the scene. This particular school is huge, it’s made up of ten separate buildings. This entire episode was over in four minutes, now you figure out the odds of that guard being in position and ready to attack from where ever he was. You can’t just run into a building without at least some information on the whereabouts of the shooter. It would be suicide for an under trained individual, or a single person insufficiently armed to rush into that situation. Don’t forget, you need to be able to keep your whits about you during all of this. Quit watching so much TV. Rambo is just a character………………

          • You should probably read my other post, Frank…gives it some context. No one is talking about “Rambo” or “rushing” to the scene.

    • FreeSpirit

      Every school in the nation already has teachers, custodians, and even cafeteria personnel that are in the reserves or have been in the armed services with training to defend our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Would these people want to shoot a student? Of course not! Would they feel better hiding under a desk unarmed while some psycho walks thru the school murdering our children at will without fear of confrontation? It’s better to have a fire extinguisher and not need it than to need one and not have one available.

  • Arming teachers is not the ONLY solution, but needs to be part of an overall effective defense strategy. Let’s dial down the hysteria, shall we? No one is advocating for teachers to “engage in a gunfight” with an active shooter or to “seek and confront” an active shooter in a school. No one is mandating that teachers who don’t want to be armed to carry a gun or be trained in it’s use. But I am advocating that schools be equipped to DEFEND students. I am not an advocate of “shelter in place,” which means “hide until you are shot.” I advocate “shelter in a covered position.” Schools should have a strategy where students can shelter in a place in an area with limited or controlled access. That access can be covered with willing teachers or school employees. If the deranged nut-job approaches this area he will be challenged…yes, with gunfire if need be. Picture this scenario: the school “active shooter” alarm goes off. Students know to take cover in a defensive position, i.e. behind/under their desks. Teachers lock the classroom doors and take cover behind a desk. If they are armed they cover the doorway with their aimed firearm. Unless the shooter approaches their classroom, they do nothing else. Perhaps, other teachers or school employees take the same defensive posture at the ends of hallways or corridors. Unless a shooter approaches the corridor, they do nothing else. You have no chaotic students running and screaming in all directions. Every one is safely sheltered. Teachers only engage in a true life or death situation: the shooter is attempting to come into their classroom. It doesn’t take much training to teach a WILLING teacher enough marksmanship to cover a 3 X 7 doorway. Yes, this a multi-dimensional problem and this is just one piece of the solution. I wish we didn’t have to discuss this. I wish it wasn’t reality…but it is. Hiding from it or wishing it wasn’t there adds NOTHING to solving the problem.

    • MaineCWP

      After school is open, single point of locked screened entry…

  • Philip

    If it were an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth the whole world would be blind and toothless.