Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A gun-rights advocate who served on the Yarmouth School Committee is calling on Maine lawmakers to pass legislation to allow educators to have guns in public schools.
State Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, appears to share that view.
Duprey posted on Facebook Wednesday that he's submitted legislation that will allow anyone with a concealed firearms permit to bring a gun to Maine's public schools, including parents. Duprey, who owns several daycare facilities in the Bangor area, said Friday that schools "are extremely soft targets" and vulnerable to shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Duprey wrote on Facebook, "Imagine if just one of the teachers at Sandy Hook had a legally obtained concealed firearms permit and was carrying that day, could he or she have stopped the gunman? Possibly. At least they would have had a chance as it was they had zero chance."
He added, "As it stands now any psycho knows that all schools are gun free zones and thus extremely soft targets."
Reached Friday, Duprey said that he wasn't sure if his bill was a good idea or not, but he wanted to have a debate about it. He argued that all criminals know that schools "are soft targets" and that using trained concealed weapons permit holders could provide "a safety net."
"Guns are allowed everywhere else, Walmart, the mall ... why shouldn't they be allowed in schools?" he said. "I want to have a debate about it and someone to tell me why it isn't a good idea."
Duprey, a concealed firearms permit holder, said he carries a gun "everywhere I go, where it's legal." Duprey, whose children are home schooled, said that he was better prepared to protect his kids because he was trained with a firearm. He said that he served eight years in the U.S. Navy.
Duprey, owner of Little Angels Daycare, was asked if he allows his employees to bring guns to work. He said he had "never asked, never brought it up."
"Daycares are different," he said. "We have security systems in place."
He added, "Our biggest threat is a deranged parent in a custody battle."
Duprey isn't alone in the belief that arming educators would improve school safety. As the Press Herald reported Thursday, lawmakers in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon have said they will consider legislation to allow school administrators and teachers to carry weapons.
In 2011, Nebraska state Sen. Mark Christensen introduced a bill that would let that state's school districts allow teachers or administrators holding a concealed handgun permit to bring their guns to school.
Christensen introduced the bill after a shooting during which an Omaha high school senior killed an assistant principal and wounded a principal before killing himself.
“If you have a kid come in to shoot a teacher ... or other kids, it’s best to have somebody that can take care of the situation,” Christensen told the Lincoln Journal Star in 2011.
Nebraska lawmakers ultimately rejected the bill.
It's doubtful that Duprey's bill will make it through the Democratic-led Legislature. Republican-led legislatures in other states have rejected similar proposals.
During the last session, Republican leaders spurned a bill that would have allowed guns on college campuses.
On Friday, House Republican leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette, of Newport, was reluctant to dismiss Duprey's proposal while people are still grappling with the Newtown tragedy and without reviewing specific legislation.
Fredette said, "We shouldn't be making any rash decisions about guns or gun ownership when we're still dealing with what happened in Connecticut. ... We need to look at this issue in a comprehensive way."
Fredette said that he had recently received a phone call from someone who worked in a school that thought that allowing concealed firearm permit holders to bring their guns to schools was appropriate. However, Fredette said, "I'm not saying that I support that kind of proposal and I'm not saying that I don't."
Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, the assistant House majority leader, said that he too had been contacted by at least two constituents supporting arming educators. McCabe, a member of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and who is married to a school teacher, said Democrats were wary of diving into "polarizing proposals" like Duprey's.
"We're really trying to look at this issue in a thoughtful way," he said. "If we get into these extreme proposals we end up alienating people on both sides of the issue and that's not helpful."
Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the co-chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, the panel that will review Duprey's bill, said the proposal would receive a fair hearing. However, Gerzofsky said that "Wyatt Earp thought it was ok to have guns in town, but I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to have guns in churches and schools."
Gerzofsky added that the Legislature had passed bills to make schools gun-free zones after the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
"I understand the argument that giving guns to people is supposed to be a defense against the bad guys," he said. "But once they got the drop on you, it doesn't matter how many guns you have in your pocket."
Adrienne Bennett, the spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, said the administration was reluctant to comment on a bill that had not gone through the legislative process.
Duprey was not available for comment on Friday. Several pro-gun photos and sentiments are posted on his Facebook page. One photo showing a handgun is accompanied by the quote, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
In a news conference Friday morning, the National Rifle Association's executive director, Wayne LaPierre, used that same quote while calling for armed police officers at every school.
McCabe also said that Duprey had a history of introducing controversial bills.
In 2005, Duprey submitted a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage. However, Duprey who opposes same-sex marriage, later acknowledged that he submitted the bill so he could vote against it. That same session Duprey submitted a bill that would ban abortions if it could be determined that the fetus was homosexual.
Both proposals yield the attention of the satirical news show, The Daily Show, which filmed a segment at the State House mocking Duprey.
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.