FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Protesters gathered at the Farmington school district’s central office in northwest New Mexico to speak out against gun violence and advocate for trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools.
Holly Gregory, a substance abuse counselor and a substitute teacher for Bloomfield Municipal Schools, organized the recent protest in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida, the Farmington Daily Times reported Monday.
She said the shooting that took 17 lives and injured others opened a sore wound for her community, which was rocked in December from a shooting that left two students dead at Aztec High School.
“I feel like after we’ve had time to heal (from the Aztec shooting), it’s time to take a stand,” Gregory said, adding that “when someone comes on a school campus with a gun and intent to kill and destroy students, they’re declaring war on that school, and they should be met with fire.”
Gregory said advocates are making steps to work with Four Corners school administrations on policies that would allow trained teachers to carry guns in schools, among other safety measures.
Aztec School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said that while armed teachers could serve as a deterrent for potential attackers, “there’s way too many risks on the other side” to justify arming school staff.
Carpenter said concealed carry in schools would place “huge” burdens and pressures on school staff, could create an opportunity of a weapon “getting into the wrong hands” on campuses and has the potential to inadvertently thwart emergency response in the case of an attack through creating confusion on who is “the bad guy.”
“We don’t bring police to teach algebra, so let’s not ask our teachers to be SWAT,” Carpenter said. “We need more security on our campuses. If it’s armed security or police, then let’s arm those people that are specialized in how to deal with violence and keeping security on campus.”
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said teachers carrying guns is “a complex topic.” He said he would want the police department to be heavily involved in a conceal carry program, including training and policy development.
“We would really want to look hard and make sure that we’re both going in same direction,” Hebbe said. “Conceptually, I can see it. I don’t have a problem with it but there’d be so many of those details on if it’s going to make a police response more complex and difficult. Those would be the things I would want to work with the school district on.”