VA Attorney General Again Shows Anti-Gun Bias Calling Armed Teachers “Unlawful”

AG Herring stopped our CHP reciprocity agreements with 25 states in 2015, so this move doesn’t come as a surprise.

 

It’s “unlawful” for a Virginia school district, Lee County, to voluntarily allow teachers to arm themselves in the classroom, writes our Attorney General Mark Herring (D-VA) in a new official advisory opinion that was requested by Shannon Dion, Director of the Commonwealth’s Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). The reasoning? There’s overwhelming support against this by teachers. Plus, Virginia’s top lawyer suggests concealed handgun permit (CHP) holders aren’t equipped to deter bad guys with guns like law enforcement is.

 

Herring’s office released this statement in a news release (bold, Italics for emphasis):

 

“Our kids deserve a safe, secure learning environment when they come to school, and adding guns and armed, unqualified personnel to our classrooms is incompatible with that goal,” said Attorney General Herring. “The law already provides several options for employing armed security personnel with full law enforcement training, but the law doesn’t allow for the arming of unqualified personnel, and for good reasonThe introduction of unqualified personnel with guns raises the likelihood of a tragic accident, or potentially catastrophic confusion during an emergency. That’s why the overwhelming majority of teachers—those who know the school environment best—oppose arming teachers. For five years in a row the General Assembly rejected specific proposals to arm teachers, so there’s really no ambiguity. I hope all of us who care about the safety and success of our students—school boards, teachers, parents, legislators, law enforcement, and more—can continue working together to make our schools safe and welcoming places for our young people to learn.”

 

AG Herring’s reasoning couldn’t be more tone deaf. CHP holders are unqualified and dangerous? Then our state’s top lawyer must not be familiar with Virginia gun laws and those who work in law enforcement—especially those law enforcement members who support the CHP process here.

 

“Our kids deserve a safe, secure learning environment when they come to school, and adding guns and armed, unqualified personnel to our classrooms is incompatible with that goal,” said Attorney General Herring. “The law already provides several options for employing armed security personnel with full law enforcement training, but the law doesn’t allow for the arming of unqualified personnel, and for good reasonThe introduction of unqualified personnel with guns raises the likelihood of a tragic accident, or potentially catastrophic confusion during an emergency. That’s why the overwhelming majority of teachers—those who know the school environment best—oppose arming teachers. For five years in a row the General Assembly rejected specific proposals to arm teachers, so there’s really no ambiguity. I hope all of us who care about the safety and success of our students—school boards, teachers, parents, legislators, law enforcement, and more—can continue working together to make our schools safe and welcoming places for our young people to learn.”

 

AG Herring’s reasoning couldn’t be more tone deaf. CHP holders are unqualified and dangerous? Then our state’s top lawyer must not be familiar with Virginia gun laws and those who work in law enforcement—especially those law enforcement members who support the CHP process here.

 

The document suggests it’s unlawful for CHP holders, particularly those who are law-abiding, to carry on campus. Moreover, the official authority opinion says Virginia law permits school resource officers (SRO) and certain security officers to possess firearms, but that clause doesn’t extend to teachers and administrators. The official authority opinion concluded with this:

 

“Virginia law expressly limits who may possess firearms on school grounds for safety purposes, and the General Assembly declined to enact bills presented every year from 2013 through 2017 to extend this authority to school teachers and administrators. The General Assembly has provided ways for schools to employ security personnel deemed to have met stringent training requirements who may possess firearms on school grounds in the execution of their duties as school safety personnel; however, these security personnel do not include armed SCOPs. For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that the Department of Criminal Justice Services cannot lawfully issue a temporary or valid registration for armed SCOPs with jurisdiction over public school grounds.”

 

Herring’s official authority opinion will do little to bolster school safety measures.

 

Lee County School Board Superintendent Brian Austin appeared on NPR earlier this month to discuss why his district board unanimously voted 5-0 to allow teachers and administrators the ability to conceal carry in the classroom by voluntary means. The vote took place back in July.

 

Austin said his county cannot afford placing security resource officers (SRO) that individually cost $600,000 into their 11 schools, saying “This was a very budget-driven decision because we have determined that it would cost almost $600,000 to put a school resource officer in every one of our 11 schools. And if we had $600,000 at this point, it would go towards roof repairs and replacement as opposed to school safety – even though school safety is our number-one priority in schools.”

 

Austin added that 37 individuals — teachers and staffers — had expressed interest to voluntarily conceal carry on campus should the opportunity be afforded. The vetting process, he added, would entail interested applicants going through “two backgrounds of checks – a drug screen as well as a psychological evaluation” or the equivalent vetting process conducted for law enforcement here in Virginia. How did AG Herring gloss over this? Perhaps he knows this, but is so driven by his agenda to acknowledge this.

 

Lee County is located in Virginia’s southwestern most part of the state, bordering Tennessee. It’s an agricultural, rural area that has overwhelmingly voted Republican since 2000. In fact, the county overwhelmingly voted for President Trump 80.3% to Clinton’s 19.7% in 2016. This is a gun toting county.

 

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s anti-gun agenda, particularly his animus towards CHP holders, is no secret. In December 2015, his office issued a statement saying they conducted an extensive audit of Virginia’s CHP reciprocity agreements, which found that 25 of 30 states had “insufficient” and “weak” regulations with respect to firearms. Shortly after, I penned this Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed pointing out the flaws of this edict, which would have had deleterious effects on gun rights and business relations with states. After much outcry from everyday citizens and gun rights groups, then-Governor Terry McAuliffe brokered a deal with Republican lawmakers that restored CHP reciprocity and added three more states. It was a momentary victory.

 

Concealed handgun permits (CHP) holders are law-abiding and just as equipped as law enforcement to help deter crime. The scapegoating of these folks is not a good look for AG Herring, who should instead target actual lawbreakers and not go after those who wish to protect kids in the classroom.

About the author

Gabriella Hoffman

Gabriella Hoffman is a media strategist based in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. She has written for The Resurgent since March 2016 and serves as their D.C. Correspondent.

View all posts