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Utah teachers get gun training in wake of Newtown shooting

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A fourth grade teacher receives firearms training in West Valley City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Hundreds of teachers in Utah attended a six-hour gun-training course run by a firearm lobby group on Thursday; training they deemed necessary following the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six staff members dead.

"If we have the ability to stop something, we should do it," said Jessica Fiveash, an attendee and elementary school teacher who learned how to use a 9 mm Ruger with a laser sight.

Roughly 200 teachers received free lessons in West Valley City, as the Utah Shooting Sports Council had waived its usual fees. They applied for a concealed-weapons permits, submitted fingerprints and mug shots, learned how to handle their weapons and received advice for stopping a gunman in his tracks.

The Newtown, Conn. shooting, which had an overall death toll of 28 people including the gunman and his mother, was fresh in the minds of those training in Utah.

So too, perhaps, were the words National Rifle Association spokesperson Wayne LaPierre.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said in a Dec. 21 conference.

The NRA's proposal to place an armed officer in U.S. schools that don't already have them has been blasted by critics. Some speak of the economic feasibility of such an endeavour, others of the dangers, and some of the fact that armed personnel at Columbine High School in Colorado and the Fort Hood Army post in Texas were unable to stop mass shootings in the past.

Even more controversial is the idea that teachers themselves should be armed.

Some have argued that teachers' weapons might be turned against them, that they may up in the hands of students, and that using firearms simply shouldn't be part of an educator's job description.

"No teacher is ever going to be as effective as a trained law enforcement officer," said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center.

"Even trained police officers don't always hit their targets, and arming teachers could put innocent students at risk of crossfire," she said, adding that it's "just not rational" that a teacher could stop someone who has decided to go on a shooting rampage.

Advocates counter that teachers can be a first line of response before armed officers arrive on scene, and that using a firearm should be an option.

"I wouldn't hesitate to shoot if the danger was immediate," said Fiveash.

-- With files from the Associated Press

What do you make of this initiative? We have all been students, and perhaps you are a teacher - can a gun make a classroom safer?


Clark Aposhian, President of Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun, rear, while Joanna Baginska, a 4th grade teacher holds a 40 cal. Sig Sauer during concealed-weapons training on Thursday. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

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