Candidate: Let state's teachers carry guns

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Matt Hill is seeking to unseat Nathan Cooper, who said the proposal wouldn't help.

Allowing teachers to carry guns could be a way to prevent school violence, Democratic legislative candidate Matt Hill said Tuesday during an election forum.

The recent series of violent school incidents, including the firing of an assault weapon by a student at a Joplin, Mo., school, sparked a question about armed teachers during the League of Women Voters forum in Cape Girardeau.

Hill, a Democrat seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Nathan Cooper in the 158th District Missouri House race, noted that he has a license to carry a concealed weapon.

Most schools have signs at the door barring concealed guns and districts generally have a zero tolerance policy that suspends students who carry guns for one year.

Arming teachers, Hill said, is a "tricky question."

"A sign isn't going to keep guns out," he said. "Anyone qualified, competent to carry should be allowed to do that anywhere, including a school."

Cooper, a Republican seeking his second term, said schools need to give teachers more power to discipline students but "guns in the classroom, that exacerbates the problem."

Gov. Matt Blunt, speaking in Joplin on Monday, called arming teachers "an interesting idea worth discussing." His spokesman, Spence Jackson, backed away from those remarks Tuesday, saying Blunt wasn't proposing teachers be armed.

The league forum at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center also featured Democrat Boyce Wooley and Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Dexter, candidates in the 159th District. Candidates Veronica Hambacker, Democratic nominee in the 8th Congressional District, and Gerald Jones, a Republican seeking his fourth term as Cape Girardeau County presiding commissioner, also took part but their opponents did not appear.

The legislative candidates, responding to questions submitted from the audience, clashed over their support for Medicaid cuts made in 2005, the stem-cell ballot issue known as Amendment 2 and other actions of the Republican-controlled legislature.

Hill and Wooley made strong arguments against the Medicaid cuts, while Cooper generally defended the action but said refinements were needed and Wright struck a middle ground, questioning more of the cuts than Cooper.

Hill and Wooley said they support Amendment 2, with Hill adding that if the district votes against the measure he will not buck the voters if he wins the race. Cooper and Wright both said they oppose Amendment 2.

In her time, Hambacker attacked U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. Hambacker said her most important contribution if elected would be "being a native 8th District representative, which we have not had for almost 30 years."

Hambacker, a former teacher, defended her views on gay marriage -- she opposes restrictions on "the same right to achieve happiness in their lives as I do in mine" -- and called attempts to halt illegal immigration with border fences unrealistic. Better enforcement of the laws against hiring illegal immigrants would stop the flow across the border, she said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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