Georgia Republican Lieutenant Gov. Burt Jones unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would annually pay school teachers $10,000 to carry a gun at school in an effort to increase safety on campuses.
“One of the most critical duties we have as public servants is to protect those who are most vulnerable – including all of Georgia’s children,” Jones said in a news release.
Jones said the legislation would use state funding to ensure Georgia’s school systems and teachers have the option to receive proper firearms training and certification. The plan also calls for stricter guidelines for existing school safety plans and to distribute more money to schools that hire school resource officers with police certification, The Associated Press reported.
“We feel like this is the best way to prepare faculty, but also prepare law enforcement and the system however we can,” Jones reportedly said at Austin Road Elementary School in Winder on Wednesday, adding the state should take more “proactive” measures to prevent school shootings.
Republican State Sens Max Burns and Clint Dixon joined the Lt. Gov. in crafting the 2024 legislative priority to increase school safety, contending that protecting children and their classrooms is their first responsibility.
“These are not mandates,” Burns reportedly said. “These are local decisions by a local school board to tailor programs that fit the unique situations in your school system.”
Local media reports say Georgia has allowed school boards to permit trained non-officers, including teachers, to carry guns at schools. Although it’s unclear how many districts have opted for the choice.
Lisa Morgan, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, reportedly said the group
“categorically” opposes non-officers carrying firearms on campuses.
“Teachers should not be armed in the classroom,” Morgan said. “We are not there to serve as law enforcement and introducing more firearms into the school is not a way to solve the problem of violence in our schools.”
Renewed calls to arm school teachers have increased in recent months after a mass shooter killed six people, including three children, at The Covenant School in Nashville. Several states in the U.S. have begun preparing legislation to allow more teachers and school staff to carry firearms to reduce gun violence at K-12 schools.
According to data collected by the Giffords Law Center, approximately half of the states permit teachers or other school employees to carry firearms on school campuses if they have concealed carry permits, with or without individualized permission.
The Hill reported earlier this year that only 16 states prohibit teachers from carrying a firearm, including Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.
Last year, The Trafalgar Group conducted a poll in partnership with Convention of States Action (COSA), which showed that most 2022 likely voters support properly trained, armed teachers in schools. The poll was conducted in the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 21 victims, including 19 children, died.
According to the data, 57.5% of respondents said that preventing properly trained teachers from carrying firearms makes schools somewhat or much more dangerous. Just 30.8% said the opposite.
“No shooting at a school is going to be stopped by gun control laws. They are going to be stopped by a variety of fairly simple on-site measures, including arming law-abiding citizens–in this case specifically teachers–and empowering them to protect our children, schools, and communities,” COSA President Mark Meckler said in a statement. “A majority of voters see this clearly, despite the relentless propaganda by people who want to confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens.”
“Self-defense is a bedrock of this Republic and our Constitution. The Founders were clear that defending those we love is the responsibility of the citizen first. So many deaths have been prevented by armed citizens, so why would we question the voluntary training and arming of teachers to protect those we love and care for the most?” he added.