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Photo by Jimmy Emerson via flickr

A group of more than 20 volunteer teachers and staff in the small school district of Clarksville, Arkansas will be trained to carry a firearm for this coming school year.

Using a little-known state law allowing trained armed guards at schools, the Clarksville school district has provided 53 hours of training to interested teachers and school staff as well as a one-time stipend of $1,100 to purchase a hand gun to participants. After the training, the volunteers will be considered armed guards. The identities of the trained teachers will be kept secret, and the guns will be concealed at all times.

In light of the Newtown massacre, President Obama and members of Congress pledged to pass new gun control legislation. However, many conservative lawmakers and lobbyists have resisted the plan. At a press conference a week after the shooting, the National Rifle Association called for an armed security officer to be placed in every school.

Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins told reporters the decision came in response to the shooting in Newtown, CT that killed over 20 children. “The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,’” he said. “That’s not a plan.” He explained that using the volunteers as security guards stopped the school from “tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens.” He added, “Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.” Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell opposes the idea, and would prefer to hire trained law enforcement officials as school resources officers instead. However, state officials have not interceded in the school district’s plan.

Other education leaders are not as enthusiastic about the new plan. Former president of the Arkansas Education Association, Donna Morey, said that the plan only increased the chance that a teacher could shoot a student accidentally or that a student could come to obtain a gun while on school premises. “We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon,” she said.

Media Resources: Associated Press 7/30/2013; Christian Science Monitor 7/30/2013; USA Today 7/30/2013; Feminist Newswire 1/15/2013, 12/21/2012, 12/17/2012