Debate Over Gun Laws, School Security Intensifies
BOSTON — Federal policymakers eyeing gun law reforms in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting should look towards Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.
Asked about President Donald Trump's suggestion of equipping certain trained teachers with concealed guns, Baker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who spoke to reporters separately at a downtown Boston event focusing on opioid addiction, each said they instead wanted to see a focus on the processes through which people obtain guns.
"I've said several times on some of these other major tragedies associated with guns that I would like to see the federal government pursue many of the strategies and the policies that we have here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," Baker said, pointing to the state's assault weapons ban.
"There are very few states in the country where the chief of police is the vehicle through which you get your gun licenses and your license to carry and that chief of police is in a position to revoke your license if they deem you to be a danger," Baker said. "With respect to teachers, I don't think more guns is the answer, in classrooms, to this problem. I think we should be doing a better job with many of the things we do here in Massachusetts to ensure that people who purchase guns have to pursue a process to get licensed to do so that's far more refined and restricted than it is in many other places."
In a series of tweets Thursday, Trump discussed the possibility of giving concealed guns to "highly trained, gun adept" teachers and coaches with military experience or other specialized training. Such teachers could serve as a deterrent and "immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions," Trump wrote.
"If a potential 'sicko shooter' knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school," the president tweeted. "Cowards won't go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won't work!"
Walsh said Trump "doesn't take the time to understand" and suggested he speak with U.S. Rep. Stephen Scalise, who was shot in the hip during a congressional baseball team practice in June, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 while meeting with constituents in a grocery store parking lot.
"Just talk to those two, two that have been shot, and ask them, should the coaches on the first and third base side have a gun?" Walsh said. "Should they have a gun to protect them from playing softball where he got shot, or baseball, whatever he was playing? I just think there has to be a better answer than that.
Instead of discussing armed personnel in schools who could respond to an active shooter scenario, Walsh said the conversation should focus on preventing shootings to begin with, suggesting an expansion of the national background check required to buy firearms.
"How about we not let an 18-year-old buy an assault rifle with unlimited amounts of clips and be able to buy tear gas and a bulletproof vest?" Walsh said. "How about we start there and stop that from happening first before we start talking about arming everyone to shoot the intruder that comes in the school?"
Seventeen people were killed and 15 injured Feb. 14 when a gunman opened fire in the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In the week since the shooting, students from the school have been calling for gun law reforms at the state and federal level.
"These young people in Florida are starting a movement," Walsh said. "The Senate and Congress might not have listened to the American people, but they will listen to the young people because they are going to have a movement here, and I commend them for it. I commend them for talking about it, because they're the most impacted by this. This is not the first time in the United States of America that we've had a mass shooting. This happens so frequently now that they need to act, and they can't let the NRA dictate to us about how we keep our kids safe."
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, on Thursday addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he called for more school security and blasted "elites" who he said want to "eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearm freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms."
"Our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians, they're all more protected than our children at school," LaPierre said. "Does that make any sense to anybody? Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children? Can we answer that question honestly, any of us...knowing that we surround and protect so much with armed security while we drop our kids off at school that are so-called gun-free zones that are wide-open targets for any crazy madman bent on evil to come there first?"
LaPierre called for parents, teachers, law enforcement and others to "come together to implement the very best strategy to harden their schools, including effective, trained, armed security."
--Katie Lannan, State House News Service