Invoking the name of Vicki Soto, the teacher who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last month while using her body to shield her students, a group of Republican state lawmakers propose a school marshals program to protect campuses from gunmen. Modeled after federal air marshals who guard against terrorism, staffers from the janitor to the principal could be armed, but no one would know who or how many are carrying a gun.
"We have a moral obligation that the next Vicki Soto who is faced with inexplicable evil, that she not be left defenseless," Republican Assm. Tim Donnelly said.
School marshals would have to pass a background check to get a concealed weapons permit. Districts decide whether to participate and Assembly Bill 202 would allow the use of education funds to pay for the program. The proposal illustrates the deep divide in the gun control debate in these post-Sandy Hook times, pitting proponents of tighter gun control regulations against gun supporters who want to protect children with more guns.
"We've laid off thousands of teachers in the last couple of years. Why would we use the few school personnel we have left to be armed guards when armed guards don't always prevent shootings?" Democratic Assm. Nancy Skinner asked.
Then, there's the argument of stray bullets in a gun battle between a school worker and an armed intruder. "If you're trying to shoot at a shooter, that could be dangerous for the kids," Skinner said.
But Christina Marotti, mother of two with another on the way, says she couldn't bear the thought of her kids in a school shooting. "If my children were put in a lockdown situation, I want teachers armed to defend them. I don't want my children to be helpless victims," she said.
To keep the identities of armed staff secret, AB202 would also exempt school marshals from a provision in the California Public Records Act requiring the disclosure of all concealed weapons permit holders.