CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A bill that would allow teachers to be armed in schools is becoming a hot-button topic. Pennsylvania State Senator and Republican Candidate for Governor Doug Mastriano plans to introduce the bill in response to the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“They should be armed,” said Blair County Sheriff James Ott. “That’s our first defense to our children. That’s our first defense to the rest of our school members.”

Sheriff Ott leads firearm safety courses and said expanding the training to schools has been a decade-long conversation locally.

“[Teachers are] going to be on-scene first to potentially stop that threat and save lives, without a doubt,” said Ott. “It’s going to deter people from making that their target or their threat.”

While Ott said he believes having guns on-hand in schools is a way to improve safety, Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey said it is not the answer.

“It is a bad, bad idea,” said Askey. “It took dozens of highly-trained and armed officers in bulletproof vests in Uvalde, Texas. It took them nearly an hour to end that massacre, and these folks making these proposals, including Senator Mastriano, they think that a kindergarten teacher with a handgun is going to do any better?”

Askey said it would create an inappropriate classroom environment.

“Our educators are trained to teach and to care for the children and to be a resource for them, not to be Annie Oakley at the OK Corral,” said Askey.

He said schools should focus on regular safety audits and funding mental health resources; however, he’s not closed off to some protection.

“We have no problem with a school resource officer that has the appropriate training and recurring training just like police officers do,” said Askey. “If they are armed, we have no problem with that as long as they are given the support they need.” 

Get daily updates on local news, weather and sports by signing up for the WTAJ Newsletter.

28 states allow school staff to be armed.

“It’s not a new concept, it’s just accepting the concept,” said Sheriff Ott.

The Crime Prevention Research Association reported these schools haven’t seen deadly shootings during class hours.

Mastriano’s proposal came days after the Ohio governor signed a similar bill into law. Mastriano is currently looking for other legislators to co-sponsor his bill.