RALEIGH, NC (T. Keung Hui, News & Observer) A North Carolina legislator is warning his colleagues that "blood will be on our hands" if teachers and students die as a result of not letting teachers carry guns at school to deal with potential shooters.
In an email sent Monday night to all 170 state lawmakers, Rep. Larry Pittman says arming teachers would "provide such a powerful deterrent to those who wish to do harm." The Cabarrus County Republican added that the presence of armed teachers would lead to "a dramatic reduction, if not elimination, of such incidents."
"We should give them a fighting chance," Pittman wrote. "Otherwise, when they die, and children die whom they could have defended, their blood will be on our hands. I cannot accept that. I hope you will think this through and find that you cannot accept it, either."
The full email can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2vsqwuK.
Pittman's email was criticized by Kimberly Reynolds, executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, who said the solution to gun violence in schools is not more guns.
"Teachers, who have enough on their plate and work for too little pay, overwhelmingly understand that arming educators is a bad idea," Reynolds said in a written statement. "Representative Pittman's call to arm teachers is dangerous, unproductive, and shows just how far Republicans will go to avoid seriously addressing gun violence."
Pittman's email comes amid a national debate over what to do about school safety following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 people dead. Some people such as Pittman and President Donald Trump have advocated allowing some teachers to be armed on campus.
Pittman's email was also specifically addressed to members of a state House committee studying how to recommend ways to make schools safer. On Tuesday, Joe Haas, executive director of the N.C. Christian Schools Association, told the committee that teachers at private schools should be allowed to carry guns on campus.
Students have organized marches and events that have called for tougher gun-control laws such as banning AR-15 rifles like those that have been used in a number of mass shootings. Thousands of students across the country are expected to hold school walkouts and other events on Friday to mark the anniversary of the 1995 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in which two students killed 13 people.
"What we must not do is to allow ourselves to be misguided by emotionalism to enact further gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment and the rights of honest citizens," Pittman wrote to lawmakers. "Such new gun control laws will not solve the problem. They will only leave good people defenseless, when the best way to stop an evil person with a gun is a good person with a gun.
"We will help nothing by violating the rights of 18-20 year old citizens or discriminating against a certain set of long guns simply on the basis of their cosmetic appearance."
Pittman contends that arming teachers "is the most practical, common sense, and constitutionally sound proposal of all." He writes that polls show that between 20 percent and 30 percent of North Carolina teachers are willing to take on the responsibility.
Twenty-five percent of North Carolina teachers surveyed said "yes" or "maybe" to carrying a gun in their classroom if they were allowed to do so, according to an Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll.
But in that same survey, 78 percent of educators said it was a bad idea to arm teachers. Even if guns are limited to a small number of teachers who received specialized training, 69 percent in the survey were still opposed.
Pittman says a substitute teacher in Henderson County told him a "sizable (sic) group of educators" in that Western North Carolina county are ready to be armed.
Pittman has a history of making controversial statements.