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Gun group offers training for Utah teachers

Cori Sorensen, an elementary school teacher in Highland, Utah, got firearms training from Jim McCarthy on Thursday. A pro-gun group paid for the teachers’ training.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — English teacher Kevin Leatherbarrow holds a license to carry a concealed weapon and does not see anything wrong with arming teachers in the aftermath of the deadly Connecticut school shooting.

''We're sitting ducks,'' said Leatherbarrow, who works at a Utah charter school. ''You don't have a chance in hell. You're dead — no ifs, ands, or buts.''

Gun-rights advocates in Utah agree and offered six hours of training Thursday in handling concealed weapons for 200 Utah teachers in the latest effort to arm teachers to confront school assailants.

In Ohio, a firearms group said it was launching a test program in firearms training for 24 teachers. The Arizona attorney general proposes a change in state law to allow an educator in each school to carry a gun.


The moves come after the National Rifle Association proposed putting an armed officer at each of the nation's schools after a gunman on Dec. 14 killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

There are already police officers in some of the nation's schools. Parents and educators, however, have questioned how safe the NRA proposal would keep kids, whether it would be economically feasible, and how it would alter student life.

Some educators say it is dangerous to allow guns. Among the dangers are teachers being overpowered for their weapons or students getting them and accidentally or purposely shooting classmates.

''It's a terrible idea,'' said Carol Lear, a chief lawyer for the Utah Office of Education. ''It's a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea.''

Utah educators say they would ban guns if they could, but legislators left them with no choice. State law forbids schools, districts, or college campuses from imposing their own gun restrictions.

Educators say they have no way of knowing how many teachers are armed. Gun-rights advocates estimate 1 percent of Utah teachers, or 240, are licensed to carry concealed weapons. It is not known how many do so at school.


Gun-rights groups say teachers can act more quickly than police in the critical first few minutes to protect kids from the kind of deadly shooting that occurred in Connecticut.

''We're not suggesting that teachers roam the halls'' for an armed intruder, said Clark Aposhian, of the Utah Shooting Sports Council. ''They should lock down the classroom. But a gun is one more option if the shooter'' breaks into a classroom, he said.

The council waived its $50 fee for the training. Instruction featured plastic guns. A major emphasis was on training people who are facing deadly threats to announce that they have a gun and retreat or take cover before trying to shoot.