Haslam ‘not certain about arming teachers’ while planning statewide school safety review

Gov. Bill Haslam, who last week said his administration plans a statewide review of school security in light of a recent mass shooting at a Florida high school, is quoted in a Sunday Politico story headlined, Governors to Washington: Stop dithering on guns.

The article is based on comments from state chief executives gathered for a weekend meeting in Washington of the National Governors Association meeting in downtown Washington.  An excerpt:

Even as the predictable party-line divides over the sensitive issues remained on display, the state executives were unanimous in their boiling frustration that they hadn’t been consulted more on questions of arming teachers, how to handle expanding background checks or imposing age limits on assault weapons.

… As has quickly become tradition, Republicans in attendance were careful not to swerve too far into President Donald Trump’s lane: few outwardly expressed frustration with the president personally, instead opting to praise him and focus their ire on nameless others in the administration or on Congress as a whole.

Even John Kasich, the Ohio Republican who is mulling a primary challenge to Trump in 2020, said the president “deserves some credit, in that he’s talking about bump stocks, he’s talked about the business of checks — appropriate checks.”

… “It’s time for people on both sides of the aisle to sit down at the table, and let’s find something we can agree on, and perhaps that should be that we all agree we should be for responsible gun ownership,” added Ralph Northam, Virginia’s new Democratic governor who campaigned in 2017 on a platform that included gun control — and much of whose gun agenda was defeated by local Republicans in his first days in office in Richmond this year. He pointed to the broad popularity of background check measures.

“If we can agree on that, then let’s move forward and talk about things like bump stocks. Let’s talk about universal background checks — which over 90 percent of Virginians encourage.”

Still, Trump’s proposal to train and arm teachers — or reward educators who opted in to such a program — was met with far more skepticism, even from pro-gun Republicans.

… “I’m not certain I see arming teachers as being the answer, because I think there’s a very small percentage of teachers who say ‘yes, I want to do that,’” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Saturday. “I don’t know what the number is, but I bet it’s less than 5 percent who would say ‘I’m willing and able to do that.’”

… The governors readily acknowledged that the political ground is shifting on the issue that’s long been a hot-button matter, especially as gun control activism ramps up around the Parkland survivors in recent days.

Governors have been sharing notes on gun policy and school safety across party lines, Haslam said.

“I mean there’s a lot of ‘what’re you doing in your state particularly on school safety,’” Haslam said. “I think there’s a lot of talk – not just from Republican governor to Republican governor, but from governor to governor.”

The governor on Tuesday told reporters about the planned school security review after a factory groundbreaking ceremony in Claiborne County, according to WBIR.

“We’re going to begin a security review of what we’re doing with schools all across (the state) in terms of how folks gain entrance to schools, what sort of precautions are in place now. We’re also gonna be looking across the state at mental health resources for students in schools to know how to refer people,” he said.

Haslam said other potential focuses could come from the legislature.

“I think there will be some in terms of any other potential legislation that will come up this year, we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “We’re fairly far down the legislative calendar at this point, we’ll have to see if anything else comes up that could actually be implemented this year.”

Note: For an update on the status of gun bills in the legislature, see Sam Stockard’s review posted Friday. The headline: Consensus on gun legislation? Not on your life. In other words, it might be fair to say that considerable dithering is reported.

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