On Saturday, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district includes Forest Park, convened a press conference in Chicago to protest a resolution that could have empowered local school boards to allow teachers and administrators to carry guns in school.
The proposed resolution, which was introduced by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) and other education leadership organizations in Chicago, failed during a vote at the IASB’s meeting held later that day. Forest Park District 91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo said he does not believe arming school personnel is a solution to stopping gun violence.
“If we truly want to prevent gun violence in our schools, and in our nation, then we need to address the root causes of violence, mental health care, social and emotional competence, and common sense gun laws,” Cavallo wrote in an email. “More guns is not a solution to less gun violence.”
Welch was joined by more than a dozen activists and elected officials, including U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley (5th) and members of Moms Demand Action, the organization focused on gun control, outside of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, where the IASB meeting took place.
Some supporters of the proposal cited slow response times by law enforcement in rural school districts.
“School shootings take an average of 12 minutes,” Dan Walther, a school board member in Peoria who supports the proposal, told WGN 9. “I mean, there’s no way a resource officer could get there. So what we’re trying to do is give these small rural districts the option of doing this. Nobody is forced to do this.”
According to the proposed resolution, local school boards would have the option of developing school safety and protection plans that “may include administrators, faculty and/or other staff,” who have all of the qualifications and prerequisites for carrying firearms, to do so on school grounds.
The resolution urges the Illinois General Assembly to support legislation that would allow teachers and administrators to be armed. The controversial proposal ultimately failed, with IASB members voting 203 to 179, WGN reports.
Welch said he wondered if some IASB members in support of the resolution to arm teachers were aware “that what they are contemplating is in violation” of two federal and state laws, including the Gun Free Schools Act of 1990 and Illinois’ Firearm Concealed Carry Act.
“This resolution is in complete contradiction to both of those laws,” said Welch, who has drafted a House resolution “supporting schools as gun-free zones and declaring the Legislature opposes arming teachers and administrators,” according to a press release his office put out over the weekend.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers also released its own resolution countering the IASB’s proposed resolution.
“This group stands together and condemns that resolution,” Welch said Saturday. “We ask them to consider putting books in our schools and not bullets.”