The deadly gunfire inside a Connecticut elementary school last Friday has prompted a number of Texas elected officials to push for more guns, not fewer, in schools and other public places.
Texans taking the pro-gun view include Gov. Rick Perry, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, and newly elected state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, who said Tuesday that he'll file legislation to allow each Texas school to appoint a member of its faculty as an undercover ?school marshal.?
Gohmert called for armed school personnel, telling Chris Wallace of Fox News on Sunday that he wished Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, had been armed when the 20-year-old gunman broke in and started firing.
Investigators say it appears Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach rushed the gunman in an attempt to stop him, but were both shot to death.
?I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office ... and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,? Gohmert said.
Perry, speaking to a tea party group in Tarrant County on Monday night, said schoolteachers and administrators should be allowed to carry concealed weapons, and that anyone who qualifies for a concealed handgun license in Texas should have the right to carry weapons in any public place.
Patterson has supported open-carry laws in the past, but disagrees with arming teachers in the classroom. He does support allowing a principal or other administrator to carry a gun on campus.
?We need to have folks at schools who are confident and comfortable with a firearm,? Patterson said. ?That's probably not a teacher, because a teacher is in the classroom and you have security issues if the weapon is in the purse or something like that.?
Patterson said a ban on assault weapons is a ?cop-out? for lawmakers who want to ?say they did something about school violence.?
Instead, lawmakers should focus on mental health issues, he said.
Patterson also disagreed with Perry that concealed weapons should be allowed at all public places, saying bars should be an exception.
Villalba's bill would require a school marshal to undergo training and certification, according to a news release from the Dallas lawmaker's office.
The proprietor of the LoneStar Gun Shop in Schertz said more than 400 teachers signed up within 24 hours of his offering free concealed handgun classes for educators, filling all his available slots.
Advertised Monday on the shop's Facebook page and in an emailed news release, it drew ?overwhelming? support from teachers across the state, most of them women and many of them calling him from their campuses at work, shop owner Josh Felker said.
?I think before (the Connecticut tragedy) they were on the fence,? Felker said, adding that he hoped the classes would add momentum to talk of legislation that would allow teachers at all schools to carry weapons on campus.
But Larry Comer, a spokesman for the Austin-based Association of Texas Professional Educators, said arming teachers would be ?very bad policy.?
?We wouldn't be in favor of it,? he said. ?Teachers are already overburdened: they are asked to be social workers, therapists, and now armed guards? We need to find an answer to this problem but arming teachers is not the answer.?
Arming teachers likely won't become a common practice because of ?liability issues,? said Tom Cummins, president of the San Antonio chapter of the Texas American Federation of Teachers.
?If Gov. Perry is so serious about this, then he should push for restoring money to districts so they hire more counselors and focus on helping students with mental health issues, which is getting attention as well as gun control or arming teachers has,? Cummins said. ?But so far it's all just talk from politicians.?
Helen Madla, South San Independent School District's board president, said Friday's shooting provoked panic and high emotions among many on the issue of guns in schools, but any change will need to be more deliberate.
?I think it's a discussion we need to have,? Madla said. ?If we want to beef up security or focus on mental health, it's going to require some work and money. But I don't think any of us want to make decisions that could make our schools turn into a battlefield.?
'Full speed ahead'
State Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, pre-filed a bill last month that would allow the more than 500,000 Texans who hold concealed-weapon licenses the option of carrying holstered pistols out in the open. It has been legal since 1995 for Texans to carry handguns concealed in purses, under coats or in glove compartments.
?We're still full-speed-ahead on it,? Lavender's legislative director, Noah Gilliam, said Tuesday.
Lavender sponsored an open-carry bill in the 2011 legislative session, but the measure failed to attract a Senate sponsor and died in committee. He and other gun rights advocates argue that law-abiding citizens openly carrying pistols in public places pose a deterrent to criminals.
In one of the first states to deal with gun legislation since the Connecticut shooting, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed gun owners with extra training to carry their concealed weapons in schools, churches, day care centers and stadiums. He said the bill did not allow those institutions the option of prohibiting those weapons.
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, the San Antonio Republican who sponsored a bill in 2011 that would have allowed concealed handgun license holders to carry guns on public college campuses, was defeated in this year's Republican primary, but Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said he will sponsor campus carry legislation in the upcoming session.
Alice Tripp, a lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, said campus-carry legislation is her group's top priority in the 2013 legislative session.
She referred inquiries about the Newtown massacre to a statement on the group's website that read, in part, ?This is a sad time and Americans are understandably seeking answers, as to why. However, to second-guess an ongoing criminal investigation by suggesting that additional gun laws or restrictions might have made a difference is not only a rush to judgment, but is irresponsible.?
Maria Luisa Cesar and Francisco Vara-Orta contributed to this report from San Antonio.