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Wyoming Remains Divided Over Teachers Carrying Guns Debate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the wake of the Uvalde elementary school shooting last week, discussion has again started about whether or not teachers should be allowed to carry guns on school campuses.

At least one parent and one state organization have told Cowboy State Daily they do not feel teachers carrying guns will make schools any safer, but these are not the only voices out there.

Wyoming allows local school boards to decide whether or not its teachers are allowed to carry guns and at least two districts in the state have allowed it: Park County School District No. 6 and Fremont County School District No. 1.

Fremont’s carrying policy has been in place for about three years, while Park’s was adopted in August 2020.

Due to confidentiality reasons, the amount of teachers who carry could not be shared, as well as any of their names.

Tim Foley, interim superintendent of PCSD6, did confirm to Cowboy State Daily that there were staff members who did participate, though.

Uinta County School District No. 1 attempted to adopt a gun carrying policy, but was sued by Tiffany Eskelsen-Maestas, a parent of two students in the district.

She told Cowboy State Daily there are other, better, methods that can create long-lasting change and prevent violence from happening in the first place, something she said a gun cannot do.

“There are various intervention and prevention methods that consider risk and protective factors and, if not evidence-based, are promising practices,” she said on Wednesday. “They are comprehensive while supporting the emotional and physical well-being of students and faculty, not only in relation to gun violence but other possible types of violence.”

She is a gun owner, but believes there is a time and place for them and school is not one of them.

She added it was especially prudent for school districts to focus on programming that reduces and prevents violence.

“I believe school districts should be basing their decision-making on research just as it is required of students to fully research an issue and use evidence to support their position in their classes,” Eskelson-Maestas said. “I think we can do better for the lifetime health of Wyoming students and faculty by implementing comprehensive evidence-based and promising practices that reduce and prevent this violence.”

Congressional candidate Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, heavily promoted concealed carrying on school campuses, saying it makes schools safer.

“The statistics reveal, that permit holders can be trusted, even more so than the police,” Bouchard said last week. “We should ignore the left coast gun control crowd, instead Wyoming should follow the lead of [Utah].”

He added that gun-free zones kill. There have been several attempts by the Wyoming Legislature to repeal gun-free zones in the state, but all have failed so far.

The Wyoming Education Association (WEA) does not support teachers carrying guns, according to its legislative platform.

“WEA believes that only trained law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry firearms and/or other weapons in schools or on school property,” its platform said. “The WEA does not support public education employees carrying firearms and/or other weapons due to the demonstrated threat to school safety should staff become overpowered, should weapons be accessed by students or should weapons in schools be accidentally discharged.”

WEA President Grady Hutcherson called on Wyoming lawmakers last week to prioritize state schools by providing adequate funding to school districts to better secure entrances and update facilities. He also called for more and better access to mental health services.

2019 study by researchers at the University of Toledo and Ball State University reviewed 18 years of school security measures, including placing more armed teachers in schools, and found no evidence of reduced gun violence, according to Vox.

Other states that allow school employees to carry guns include Idaho, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.

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