The Slatest

South Carolina Lawmaker Creates Gun Giveaway to Arm Teachers

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 23:  Handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the 2018 National Shooting Sports Foundation's Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on January 23, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The SHOT Show, the world's largest annual trade show for shooting, hunting and law enforcement professionals, runs through January 26 and is expected to feature about 1,600 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 60,000 attendees.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the 2018 National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show on Jan. 23 in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A South Carolina state legislator is raising money for a gun giveaway that would provide handguns to two teachers and one “freedom-loving patriot” who participate in the random drawing.

Rep. Steven Long announced on his website Monday that he plans to give away 9-millimeter handguns to a K–12 teacher or administrator and to an employee at a college or university. The educators, who must successfully pass a background check, will also be given a gift certificate to attend a class where they can earn a concealed-weapons permit.

The Republican from the northwestern city of Boiling Springs set up a donation page to pay for the three Smith and Wesson M&P Shield weapons, which cost about $500 a piece. Any remaining funds will be donated to South Carolina Carry, an organization that promotes Second Amendment policies and firearms education.

“Allowing teachers or school staff members to carry is the most efficient and most effective way to (ensure the safety of children in schools),” Long said on his website. “Not every teacher will want to carry or needs to carry, but for those who are willing and able, we need to allow them this protection. It is undeniable that we must take action on this issue.”

The giveaway comes on the heels of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of that shooting, which left 17 people dead, President Trump and other Republicans voiced support for arming teachers.

Long, who was endorsed by the NRA during his 2016 campaign, is organizing the gun giveaway to support state legislation that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools. It’s a strategy he thinks will deter mass shooters, whom he called “mentally defective cowards,” from targeting gun-free zones, according to his website. “By allowing trained adults to defend the students, we will send the message to those deranged psychotic degenerates that children are our top priority and we will protect them.”

Since January 2017, South Carolina legislators have introduced five bills in the state House of Representatives that would allow teachers to carry guns. The bills aim to end concealed-carry restrictions at K–12 schools and on college campuses, including during sporting events. Among other goals, one piece of legislation also seeks to designate some school employees as “school protection officers” who can provide protection in active-shooter situations.

In the GOP-controlled state, many Republicans favor such measures instead of tighter gun regulations. Republicans have a 79–44 advantage in the House in addition to a majority in the state Senate. The legislators also have the support of Gov. Henry McMaster, who said Thursday he would support a bill arming teachers.

Despite the GOP majority, the fractious issue has divided Republican officials, whose myriad views hinder any consensus on gun legislation. The legislature has not passed any of the 50 gun bills—supporting both tighter and looser gun regulations—that have been introduced since 2017. And in the previous session, only three of 68 gun-related bills became law.

Although the majority of states have laws prohibiting guns at K–12 schools, legislation allowing teachers to carry firearms exists in five states. The National Conference of State Legislators reports that since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas have passed laws that allow school officials to carry concealed weapons on campus. Five additional states—Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah—have laws allowing gun owners with concealed-carry permits to have  firearms at K–12 schools.

Anyone who has school permission can also carry guns at K–12 schools in 19 other states: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Forty-four percent of Americans said they support arming more teachers, compared with 50 percent who oppose the idea. Many educators rejected the idea, with several teachers’ groups speaking publicly against it. “We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “No amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

The National Education Association, which represents 3 million educators, also issued a statement opposing the idea. “Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence,” President Lily Eskelsen García said. “Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses, and school counselors.”

As the debate around arming teachers has resurfaced in the national spotlight, teachers across the United States protested on social media with the hashtag #ArmMeWith in posts describing the resources they need more urgently than guns to serve their students.

Jaime Dunaway is a Slate intern.