Judiciary Chairman: Feds Should Stay Out of Way if States Want to Arm Teachers

"Let it happen!" should be the federal approach if states want to arm teachers as a defense against Newtown-type attacks. National teachers’ unions are opposing the idea, but if states want this safety measure, the feds should stay out of the way, according to the incoming Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R, VA).

In a broadcast interview, Goodlatte said he also wants to double-check the InstaCheck system that clears the eligibility of gun buyers to ensure that mental health information is being added and accessed properly.

Asked about the idea of arming teachers on the Istook Live! talk radio program, Goodlatte said, “We certainly need to look at that... because we should be giving states the maximum flexibility to address this problem as they see as appropriate.”

Several governors (including in Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas) are showing interest in allowing properly-trained teachers to carry weapons. The federal Gun-Free School Act requires expulsion of students who bring a gun to school but does not address teachers or other employees.

Goodlatte wants to be certain there is no federal barrier. That could mean a political fight with teachers’ unions, whose national offices announced public opposition this week and can be expected to seek backing from the Obama Administration. 

As Goodlatte told me: 

It’s appropriate to take place at the state and local level... Of all the hundreds of thousands of schools we have, it [an attack] is a very rare occurrence, but when it occurs it is an incredibly violent traumatic thing. Talking about ways for schools to prepare to deal with this should certainly be part of the equation... This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out [to those affected].

The incoming chairman also addressed mental health issues, including the impact of violent video games, which reportedly were a major pastime of the Newtown shooter. Goodlatte says he sees a connection between the games and actual violence, but urges caution due to 1st Amendment freedoms. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out a California law that tried to ban minors’ access to those games.

“Most people who play video games do so in a way that they are able to separate reality from the fantasy of the video game,” Goodlatte said. “Some people are not and that goes right back to the mental health issues and quite frankly parenting issues.”

He expressed a willingness to “look at” any recommendations from a task force created by President Obama to craft review responses to the Newtown murders. But Goodlatte added, “I wouldn’t want to single out any of the sections of our Bill of Rights and say we have to sacrifice freedom.”

He cautioned against the frenzy being created by gun control advocates.

Noting the legislation that followed the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, Goodlatte told me:

We’ve been done this path before. A knee-jerk reaction... is not going to solve this problem... We responded and improved info-gathering regarding people with mental health problems and making sure that enough mental health information is being put into the Insta-Check system [checking on gun buyers] and we need to go back and look at that again.

The full interview can be heard online here.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook hosts the daily "Istook Live" radio talk show, available at www.istook.com, broadcast from The Heritage Foundation 9 a.m. to noon (Eastern) Monday through Friday. He is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. 


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