New Jersey's biggest teacher's union opposes arming teachers

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New Jersey's biggest teacher's union says it's "adamantly opposed" to suggestions that teachers should carry guns as a deterrent to school attacks.

New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan announced the group's stance in a statement issued Thursday.

She said that turning schools into arsenals will put children and staff more at risk of becoming victims of gun violence. She also said schools should be safe havens for learning and development, not become armed fortresses of fear. Blistan also called on politicians to "stop cowering before the gun lobby."

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President Donald Trump says he believes the proposal could "solve the problem" of school shootings, by making potential attackers think twice. He has noted that some airline pilots have carried concealed weapons since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But some teachers and law enforcement officers tell News 12 New Jersey that they are not comfortable with the idea of teachers being armed in schools.

“To ask me to carry a gun, just to have that presence in the classroom; how am I supposed to tell a kid they’re safe but I also have a gun?” says Bartle Elementary School music teacher Beth Martinetti.

Old Bridge Education Associate president Tim O’Neill says that teachers should be focused on teaching their students.

“Once you put a handgun in the possession of a teacher…their top priority has to be gun safety,” he says. “You now have an armed guard teaching a class, not a teacher.”

O’Neill says that some of his teachers say that they would be willing to carry a gun at school, but says that he doubts New Jersey could find 20 percent of its teachers who are able to do it.

Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan says he has a better alternative. The Edison Police Department is now working with the Board of Education to put active-duty police officers in schools to protect students.

“I am against non-law enforcement personnel in the schools being armed,” says Chief Bryan. “A retired police officer is not up to date with their training and they don’t have any police powers. It’s the same as having a citizen there with a weapon, that’s why I’m against that.”

Bryan says that he hopes to have his officers assigned to Edison schools within a matter of weeks.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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