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Va. Attorney General says teachers with guns at school are unlawful

Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued an official advisory opinion explaining the reasons that Lee County’s plan to arm teachers is unlawful and cannot proceed.

The opinion was issued at the request of Shannon Dion, Director of the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

While the General Assembly has laid out several ways for schools to employ trained, armed security personnel, and even made grant funding available for school resource officers through DCJS, Lee County is attempting a different course that is not authorized by law for the reasons laid out in the opinion.

“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 reason.:

“The 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.”

The opinion concludes “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.”

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