In the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., during which 17 people were killed, and the range of proposals on how to curb gun violence since, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said last Saturday that arming teachers with guns is not the solution.
It is a felony in New York to carry a weapon on school grounds, Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said at the news conference, but if the federal law on gun-free school zones is lifted, a district’s Board of Education could potentially authorize any person to do so. Standing alongside Rockville Centre school officials, students and other gun control advocates in the library of South Side High School, he introduced legislation that would only allow law enforcement, security guards and school resource officers to carry firearms.
“When we decide to arm teachers, we are implicitly saying that there is nothing that can be done,” Kaminsky said. “It is a cop-out. It’s saying we know that someone who shouldn’t will get their hands on a very dangerous weapon and come into our schools.”
Scott Reif, Senate Republican spokesman, labeled Kaminsky’s efforts as grandstanding. “No one in New York is proposing to arm school teachers, and he knows it,” Reif wrote in a statement after the news conference. “In fact, Senator Flanagan is adamantly opposed, and thinks teachers should be allowed to focus on teaching.”
But the Republican-controlled Senate voted against the bill on Monday. Kaminsky wrote on his Facebook page, “We should all be outraged that the Senate Majority voted against it.”
Last week, the Senate voted against bills that would have implemented effective background checks, established extreme risk protection orders, and banned bump stocks.
Kaminsky’s push for the bill came after President Donald Trump voiced support for arming teachers that are “firearms adept” and receive annual training, noting in a tweet that it would be “up to states.”
Frank Van Zant, president of Rockville Centre Teacher’s Association, told the Herald after the news conference that teachers’ focus should be on teaching. “The prospect of a gun in a teacher’s holster is not inspirational,” he said. “This is not a movie where the cyborg teacher inspires the kids and shoots the gunman down. Let’s leave the protection business to those professionals who have spent their working lives keeping people safe.”
Schools Superintendent Dr. William Johnson reiterated the stance on having firearms in schools that he expressed at last week’s Board of Education meeting. “We don’t solve problems with problems,” he said. “…Guns don’t belong in schools. Teachers belong in schools, students belong in schools … books and supplies belong in schools.”
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea-Stewart Cousins echoed Kaminsky’s call for common-sense gun laws, as did Democratic State Sens. Leroy Comrie, who represents Queens County, Brian Kavanagh, of Kings County and Manhattan, and John Brooks, of Seaford, who visited South Side’s packed library.
“As a first responder, I understand the need for training and communication at these kinds of incidents,” Brooks said. “The last thing you would want to do is respond to an incident like this and you’re given information that there are active shooters in the school and we’ve got six armed teachers looking for them.”
Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Democratic lawmakers with signs, as did South Side High School student Katie Ralph, whose placard read, “You’re afraid we’ll take your guns — we’re afraid you’ll take our friends.”
“They’re not going away,” Johnson said of the student activists. “These kids are committed to change the world. …We as adults have not figured out how to make it better. They’re figuring it out, and they’re going to do it.”