Poll: Only guards should carry guns in schools Sunday, July 27, 2008 By BRIAN LYMAN Capital Bureau MONTGOMERY If guns show up in Alabama schools, security guards ought to be the ones carrying them, according to people contacted for a new statewide poll. Most respondents to the new Press-Register/University of South Alabama poll disagree with college professors having guns in class, and even more strongly oppose students toting them. They expressed backing for stronger security at high schools, but skepticism that new gun control laws could prevent another massacre such as the one at Virginia Tech last year. The poll of 418 Alabama residents was conducted Monday through Wednesday, and has a 5-percentage-point margin of error. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of professors being armed in classrooms, while 41 percent said they would favor it. An even larger majority panned the idea of high school teachers having guns in class. An overwhelming majority 86 percent said they oppose allowing college students to carry firearms to class, while 12 percent supported it. Meanwhile, 76 percent doubted that stricter gun laws would prevent another campus shooting. "They don't see more extensive arming of ourselves in a school environment to be the solution to the problem," said Keith Nicholls, director of the USA Polling Group, which conducted the survey. The poll found broad support for toughening security in high schools, including metal detectors. Sixty-percent of those surveyed said they do not have children in school, but Nicholls said there were statistically insignificant differences between parents and non-parents. Following the Virginia Tech shootings last year, state Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, introduced a bill that would allow students who had undergone ROTC training to carry handguns on university campuses. The bill has not made it to a floor vote. Sixteen other states were considering similar bills this year, but most such efforts had failed by June, according to the Washington D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control group. Legislation is still pending in Michigan and Ohio. Utah is the only state to allow college students to carry concealed weapons. A 2005 Department of Justice survey found that 93 percent of violent crime suffered by college students between 1995 and 2002 occurred off campus, and that college students were generally less likely to be victimized than their noncollege peers. Advocates for the bills say that arming students could prevent campus shootings and allow faster responses to such tragedies. "Most people have the idyllic perception of college as a safe, secure fairy tale existence where people go to school to get an education," Erwin said Thursday. "That's the campus of the old days, that's not today campus." Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the Virginia-based National Rifle Association, would not comment on specific campus gun proposals but said that his group wants a national dialogue on controlling campus shootings. "When any shooting happens, the most important thing to remember is the only thing that will stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, and time is of the essence," he said. For the most part, college administrators and security leaders warn that guns in classrooms would stifle debate and introduce a volatile element to a campus setting. Melvin Owens, director of public safety and security at Auburn University, said police officers there are trained extensively in ways to "deescalate a situation without having to resort to deadly force." Said Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan: "It is not a good idea to have the proliferation of weapons of campus. Campuses are highly emotional places for students as well as professors." Erwin's bill would have required students who carried firearms to complete gun safety courses on campus. The senator said he had not decided whether to reintroduce the bill, saying there were misperceptions about it. "I'm not trying to create a Wild West atmosphere," he said. "That's totally far away from what the main idea was."