Arming teachers in response to school shootings might be supported in some parts of the country, but Lowcountry educators seem largely opposed, Mark Sanford said Monday.
The Republican Congressman said the decision to arm teachers should be made locally, not by federal or state lawmakers. Gov. Henry McMaster said last week he would sign a bill arming teachers, following statements from President Donald Trump supporting allowing some teachers to carry guns and receive bonuses for doing so.
“What I’ve heard from a lot of teachers this week, because we’ve been out of session this week, is the idea of them holding a gun and pointing it at one of their students or having to make the life or death decision of whether or not you have to shoot one of your students is a decision they don’t want to have to make,” said Sanford, speaking to local reporters before a Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce event at Callawassie Island Club on Monday.
Sanford said school boards should decide whether teachers should carry guns in the wake of another school shooting. A 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
Sanford said he supports improved background checks and extending the current three-day waiting period for a federal background check.
At the Beaufort Chamber event, Beaufort County school board member Cynthia Gregory-Smalls asked Beaufort County delegates their thoughts on possible tougher gun laws, such as raising the age someone can buy an AR-15 to 21, and whether there were any bills that would “address the situation.”
The lawmakers said the Florida shooting had sparked more talk in Columbia about the possibility of more gun regulations, though nothing is imminent.
“I think the communication we’re getting from folks has changed dramatically in the last several weeks, and conversations that might have been behind closed doors before are not any longer,” said Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort.
Strengthening background checks, adequate funding for mental health counseling and school resource officers and better monitoring social media are among possible areas for action, said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.
“I don’t see any movement in the General Assembly towards arming teachers, nor do I think that’s a good idea,” Davis said to some applause.