Connecticut Senators push back against Secretary DeVos looking into federally funded firearms for teachers

HARTFORD — Senator Chris Murphy is making a new push in Washington to prevent federal dollars from going toward buying guns for teachers in schools.

An effort led by Murphy started yesterday morning, calling it an ’emergency response’. The plan looks to stop Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ plan to use a federal grant program to arm teachers.

“The education world thinks this is not a good idea. It is not allowable by statute,” says Murphy.

The Federal Education Department is reportedly looking into using the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program as a way to give federal funding for firearms to school districts or states

DeVos has held the position that it should be up to states to decide whether their teachers should be armed or not.

Connecticut residents are split on the issue.

“I think [teachers should have guns] for the safety of the kids. I’m a gun owner myself, so I think it’s a good idea,” says Newington resident, Wilkins Justiniano.

Other people think that guns shouldn’t be in schools at all.

“It’s really up to the individual to carry a firearm for their protection,” says Wethersfield resident, Lawrence Thomas. “I do believe in protection, but there’s a point in time. In schools, no.”

It’s not just an issue of whether teachers should have guns in schools. It’s an issue of who should be payng for those guns if they are allowed in schools.

“[Teachers] shouldn’t be responsible to front the costs for protecting their students and themselves,” says Wethersfield resident,
Tom Sapia.

If teacher’s shouldn’t pay for their own guns and federal dollars shouldn’t fund it, the question becomes: who should pay up?

“If states want to use their own dollars in order to protect schools, they can have that discussion,” says Murphy. “From a policy perspective I don’t think that we should be encouraging guns in our classroom and I absolutely don’t think that the federal government should be funding it. So, I know this debate is going to largely play out in states, but federal tax payer dollars shouldn’t make it easier for states to make what I think ultimately is the wrong decision.”

The enrichment fund DeVos is looking into using is a $1 billion program that was originally established three years ago to give students better access to art, music, technology, and mental health services.

The language in the grant doesn’t explicitly prohibit the use of those funds for firearms, but Senator Murphy says other bills, like the Safe School Act passed in March do explicitly prohibit the use of education dollars to buy weapons.

“Congress has said that if you are using money to make schools safer, it cannot be used to arm teachers because we, republicans and democrats in Congress, both think it’s a bad idea,” he says.