MEDFORD, Oregon — Oregon representative Dennis Richardson said the massacre that left more than two dozen people dead at a Connecticut elementary school is another "heartbreaking failure" of school personnel to ensure protection, and is a reminder that teachers should be allowed to carry guns in the classroom.
Richardson, a Central Point Republican, wrote in an email to three southern Oregon school superintendents that gun bans on school property must be overturned, the Mail Tribune newspaper reported (http://is.gd/oRfzx6 ) Saturday.
"If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide," he wrote.
When contacted by phone, Richardson added that he believes at least three officials in every school should be trained in the use of firearms.
In 2009, the Medford School District barred a South Medford High School teacher from bringing her gun to school. The teacher later lost a court appeal case.
"We need to ensure that our children are safe, and we can't do that by disarming those who are on the scene," Richardson said.
Medford police Chief Tim George disagreed with Richardson, saying that it's not the responsibility of teachers to make deadly force decisions on the job.
"Teachers don't go into teaching to be police officers, they want to teach kids," George said. "In crisis situations there are a lot of very complex things happening all at once and you have to constantly train for deadly force incidents."
Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long, who received the email from Richardson, said he believes it's best if teachers focus on getting children to safety if a shooting occurs. The district trains its staff in lockdown procedures meant to protect children from violence on school grounds.
Long said the district called attention to those safety procedures in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy. Employees were reminded of where to go and what to do should such a situation occur in Medford.
"I know (Richardson) is well-intentioned when he says this," Long said. "But we can't jump to conclusions immediately after a tragedy like this occurs."