RALEIGH — A Robeson County lawmaker and former educator disagrees with a fellow state legislator who thinks teachers should be given guns to prevent tragedies such as the recent school shooting in Florida.
“I just don’t think that is the way to approach it,” said Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Lumberton who spent 31 years in public schools.
Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman, of Cabarrus County, told colleagues Thursday that he met with a police officer who wants to talk to lawmakers about training school personnel, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
Pittman spoke during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee. He said he’s brought up the topic before but his proposal was “sneered at in a very dismissive manner.”
“I’m a firm believer in that we need to make sure our kids are safe in schools across North Carolina and across the nation,” Graham said.
He believes a better approach would be to make sure schools have enough armed resource officers to respond to an active shooter situation. Another approach would be to ensure every school has an emergency plan for responding to an active shooter situation and that school staff and teachers are given the time and opportunities to practice the plan.
“I don’t think arming teachers is the way to go,” Graham said.
Oversight Committee co-chairman Sen. Ron Rabin, a Republican from Harnett County, said he’d like to hear from the police officer with whom Pittman spoke.
“We’ll hear it in the next session, as far as I’m concerned,” Rabin said.
The committee’s next meeting hasn’t been scheduled.
The North Carolina Democratic Party said Pittman’s latest comments were “embarrassing our state on a national stage. A statement issued by the party Friday called on GOP House Speaker Tim Moore to take action against Pittman.
In a statement Friday evening, Moore said he completely disagreed with Pittman’s comments “and he does not speak for the House of Representatives or our Republican caucus.” Moore mentioned plans to announce a new committee to study school safety next week.
A 19-year-old former student has been charged with fatally shooting 17 people Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Among the victims were a geography teacher, a football coach and the high school’s athletic director.
Pittman said he believes government officials are accountable for deaths and injuries being as numerous as they are in such shooting incidents.
In a Facebook comment on another user’s post, Pittman speculated the Florida shooter was part of a conspiracy to “push for gun control so they can more easily take over the country.” That user’s post later was deleted.
Pittman has made controversial comments before. Last year, he compared President Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler. In 2012, Pittman suggested the resumption of public hangings in response to a death row prisoner’s description of living the high life behind bars. He made special reference to “abortionists, rapists and kidnappers.”