Vos open to arming teachers, supports using budget surplus to beef up security

NOW: Vos open to arming teachers, supports using budget surplus to beef up security

MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Republican leader of the state Assembly believes arming teachers who are trained and hiring more police officers could help enhance security following the Texas school shooting.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) tells CBS 58 he is open to the idea of having teachers carry guns but prefers those individuals have a background in law enforcement, including firearm training.

"I think the requirement would be to have people in law enforcement first," Vos said. "I think it's sad we have some people looking to push officers out of schools like Madison did… I think that's crazy."

A majority, 63%, believe having a police officer in public schools would increase safety, according to the Wisconsin Professional Police Association poll. Milwaukee and Madison Public Schools voted to remove school-based officers in June 2020 after some activists argued police presence in schools can disproportionately impact black and brown students.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers criticized the idea of arming teachers while touring a meat processing plant in Brown County.

"I don't think there's many teachers who think that's a good idea," Evers said. "There are better ways. I would like to find ways to keep guns away from people that are causing problems."

Republican lawmakers have not had any success passing legislation to arm teachers, an idea that's been floated around the Capitol for years in response to an uptick of school shootings across the nation.

The legislature is unlikely to come back into session to take the matter up or additional school safety measures, Vos said. He believes schools already have adequate resources, referencing the Wisconsin Department of Justice $100 million grant program designed to make students and schools safer.

"I would say by in large school districts already have the ability to do many of these things," said Vos. "It's not always a requirement for the legislature to act."

The Rochester Republican added if schools need more money for security, he's open to tapping into the state's $3.8 billion surplus to pay for it.

Vos acknowledged having more police officers and armed security guards alone can't prevent school shootings. The Assembly leader also doubted Democratic proposals such as expanding background checks and implementing red flag laws would make a difference either despite a majority, 80%, supporting universal background checks on all gun purchases, according to polling by Marquette University Law School.

When asked if he agrees with Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's comments referencing Chicago's "real gun laws" are "not a real solution" to school shootings, Vos said, Abbot's "100% right."

"[Chicago] has a much higher murder rate, higher rate of incidents than we have in Wisconsin where we have gun control at a much lower rate than they do," said Vos.

GOP Candidates Weigh In:

Kevin Nicholson, who is running for governor, believes schools should hire more police officers, security guards and allow some teachers to be armed if necessary.

"Allowing some teachers who are trained and licensed to carry in order to protect our students may also be warranted," said Courtney Mullen, a spokeswoman for Nicholson. "When and wherever possible, schools should be safeguarded by armed and professionally trained safety professionals."

Other Republican candidates in the race, including Rebecca Kleefisch, said she supports expanding school safety grants to pay for more school resource officers.

"We can’t stop making our schools more secure," Kleefisch said in a statement. "We can’t stop making our schools more secure. I’ll expand the program so more school resource officers can be in place."

Candidates Tim Ramthun and Tim Michels did not respond to request for comment.

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