June 30, 2003 Monday on MSNBC
SHOW: HARDBALL 19:00
TRANSCRIPT: # 063000cb.461
SECTION: NEWS; INTERNATIONAL
LENGTH: 9204 words
HEADLINE: HARDBALL for June 30, 2003
BYLINE: Chris Matthews; Frank Luntz; David Shuster
MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL debate tonight. The state of Utah has a mandate allowing teachers -- teachers -- to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. Does it make students safer or endanger them?
Here's HARDBALL correspondent, David Shuster.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Utah, some teachers responsible for reading, writing, and arithmetic, are now adding a new skill to the repertoire, handguns.
This year, the Utah legislature passed a concealed weapons law that allows state employees, including teachers, to carry guns. School boards are drawing up a list of penalties for those teachers who leave their weapon lying around. But the fact is if the Governor of Utah signs the bill, educators will have the authority to offer a history lesson on the blackboard and keep another one loaded in their desk.
BLAINE RUMMEL, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: I don't know of any parent in America who would be comfortable knowing that their child is in a classroom with a teacher who's carrying a hidden handgun. And let's remember that in a lot of these cases, the privacy of the gun owner is supreme.
SHUSTER: That means the parent would not be able to know which teacher is packing heat. The irony, of course, is that in many school districts across the country, students can be singled out and expelled if they are caught with a pocketknife. And bringing a gun to school usually makes an expulsion permanent. Thirty-one states issue permits for concealed weapons. And most of those states, specifically prohibit guns from being carried into schools and churches. But in Utah, the attorney general's office believes teachers should not face restrictions. Furthermore, gun advocates point to incidents like Columbine and argue that teachers should have the right to defend themselves.
JOHN LOTT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think rather than creating safe zones, I think you unintentionally end up creating areas which are, in fact, safer for those who are intent on doing the harm than you do for their potential victims.
SHUSTER: Critics call that nonsense.
RUMMEL: The problem with the more guns -less crime hypothesis is that if more guns really did mean less crime, America would be the safest country in the world. Instead, America has the highest gun violence rate of any other industrialized nation.
SHUSTER: All the more reason, say gun owners, for some educators to be armed. So the question is, should teachers be allowed to carry concealed weapons or will that only make classroom more dangerous? I'm David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Carol Lear is the coordinator for school, law and government relations for the Utah State Office of Education and John Lott, who's with me, is with the American Enterprise Institute. He's author of the book "The Bias Against Guns. " I'm going to start with John. Should teachers be allowed to carry guns in classrooms?
LOTT: I think it makes it safer. I don't think many have to do it. I think just the possibility that somebody may be able to defend themselves if an attack would occur. But this isn't something new. Prior to the federal law in 1995, states such as Utah, it was possible for teachers to be able to go and carry guns. It's only been in -- it hasn't even been that long.
MATTHEWS: Did they do it? Did they carry guns into the classroom?
LOTT: They didn't have any measure...
MATTHEWS: Do you have any evidence whether they were doing it? Why would a teacher bring a gun into class?
LOTT: For the same reason that somebody would carry a concealed handgun generally. I mean, I don't think people thought it would be a threat but they may have also kept it in their car or the parking lot that was there. There have been times where attacks have been stopped by teachers with guns, even in the public school shootings.
MATTHEWS: Back when I was a capital policeman, I carried a .38 special police revolver and a lot of people had the -- we all had the legal right to carry our gun home with us. It couldn't be our service revolver. We could carry our gun home with us because of the natural reasons why people might want to carry a gun. Let me go to Carol Lear. Why shouldn't teachers be allowed to carry guns into classrooms?
CAROL LEAR, UTAH STATE OFFICE OF EDUCATION: Well, I think there are several reasons. First of all, I think there are potential dangers. People who are -- who receive concealed permits, at least in Utah, don't have any training to protect themselves from someone taking their gun from them. Most employees -- and we're not talking about just teachers. We're talking about teachers' aides; we're talking about coaches, we're talking about lunch ladies; we're talking about anybody who might be in the school setting. Irate parents can come into schools with guns. I think -- they're not trained to protect other people.
MATTHEWS: What about -- excuse me. Carol, let me just ask you -- John -- to respond to what John said. Do you think the knowledge that a teacher may or may not carry a gun, could intimidate a perhaps dangerous student from causing trouble of a violent kind in classrooms?
LEAR: My experience and I've been in education for all my life, I don't think it's going to intimidate a student because a student who is violent is usually not rational.
LOTT: But, I mean, you have to ask who obeys these laws? And basically, it's the law abiding citizens who are going to be obeying any type of gun -free zone. I mean, I understand the desire to do it, but if you create a situation where guns are banned, it's going to be the people who are intent on causing harm are going to be relatively less for them to worry about.
MATTHEWS: I hate -- it's a rushed show tonight, but I ask you because suppose we had Columbine all over again, whether it was in New York City or Colorado again. And the kids came in with the automatic weapons and one very tough teacher just goes out and knocks them off with his handgun from behind, wouldn't than be better than losing all those kids?
LEAR: I don't think you have any guarantee that he's going to be that good of a shot, that he's going to be able to be in the right place at the right time. I don't want my children -- That's not why I send them to school.
MATTHEWS: Would a couple of these Droogies show up with the automatic weapons if they thought half the faculty was armed? Would they come into class aimed on assassination of a number of their fellow students out of some kind of rage? Would they do it if they knew half the school faculty was armed?
LEAR: I don't think students do these kinds of things based on those kinds of -- based on that information.
LOTT: The fact is, if you look at all the multiple victim public shootings in the United States from 1977 through 1999, what you find is that when states pass right to carry laws, there's about a 70 percent drop in the rate at which multiple victim public shootings occur. And about an 80 percent drop in the rate at which people die or are injured from these attacks. To the extent to which the attacks take place in those states, they take place in these gun -free zones. But the fact that somebody may be able to protect themselves. I mean somebody -- you may have 100 people in a restaurant or something. Somebody who's unknown to the attacker and so the attacker can't take them out. I mean, that's one of the benefits of a concealed handgun.
MATTHEWS: It could happen -- teacher is at the blackboard chalking up some math lesson, kid runs up real fast, grabs it out of her drawer, he knows it's there.
LOTT: It's not going to be in her drawer.
MATTHEWS: Where would it be?
LOTT: It would be on her in some way.
LEAR: How does a teacher in a summer dress carry a gun on her?
LOTT: You can carry it inside your thigh. There's lot of places you can carry it where somebody is not going to see where it is.
LEAR: This is the kindergarten teacher who's down on the floor reading with her children, her students.
LOTT: You know, we can go through hypothetical problems. The point is that states allowed prior to the end of '95 teachers to go and carry these guns. You cannot point to a situation where there's been a problem. If you look at the states that have had right to carry laws, you see no increases in accidental gun deaths that are occurring there. You know, I understand that there's some fear of the unknown, but the question is, hopefully like a fire extinguisher, it will be something that you'll never have to use.
MATTHEWS: But it also could be used in rage. A teacher could -- Think of the students giving him so much lip, he could pull the gun on somebody in a weird case.
LOTT: The people who go and get permits tend to be extremely law abiding. You see these people lose these permits for any reason are hundreds and thousands of one percentage point for firearm violations.
MATTHEWS: It's a fascinating case. Thank you. I'm sorry, I told you it would be short.
Carol, thank you very much for joining us. John, thank you. You've been here before, please come back.
Up next, California Governor Gray Davis could be recalled -- that means dumped -- this November and replaced quickly by a Republican. Let's talk about that with Frank Luntz and his typical voters California, his focus group.
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