What the nation’s largest teachers union thinks about gun violence in schools

If Congress approves a bipartisan agreement on guns and school safety, it would provide new resources to try and prevent shootings like the massacre in Uvalde. That would likely mean new money for mental health care, violence prevention and training for educators. But many educators want to see more action. Becky Pringle, National Education Association president, joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.

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  • Stephanie Sy:

    Let's get into some of these concerns a little deeper, including whether to arm teachers in America.

    For that, I'm joined by Becky Pringle. She's the president of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country representing three million educators.

    Ms. Pringle, thank you for joining the "NewsHour."

    Ms. Pringle, you were a middle school teacher when the Columbine shootings happened. In the 23 years since, mass school shootings have continued, despite efforts to harden schools or even to arm teachers. Are you seeing a more earnest effort now in Washington, with this bipartisan framework, that gives you new hope our schools can be made to feel safe again?

  • Becky Pringle, President, National Education Association:

    It's good to be with you again, Stephanie.

    I had been teaching for 23 years middle-level learners when, 23 years ago, we had 12 students and one teacher killed in Columbine. And I will never forget the day after students coming to my classroom, just like they did two weeks ago to teachers all over this country, asking, are we safe? Is that going to happen here?

    And I said with confidence 23 years ago, oh, baby, this country will never let that happen again, and then Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook and Parkland and so many more we can't even name, let alone all of the gun violence on the streets of this country.

    I will tell you that I am so incredibly proud of the work that our students and educators and parents have done. Because of their courage and because of their resilience and their resolve, I believe that we have been heard. And the bipartisan agreement that has been reached addressed some of our concerns, not all of them. So we will continue to push.

    But it does give them hope, especially our students, that their voices and their stories can make a difference and we can change what's happening in this country.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    What is not in that bipartisan framework? For example, 18-year-olds are still going to be able to buy assault weapons. There is no assault weapons ban.

    What specifically would you be asking for that is not currently in the bipartisan framework?

  • Becky Pringle:

    We would absolutely and will continue to ask for a ban on assault weapons. We also will continue to fight for raising that age limit.

    Additionally, while the bipartisan agreement, we still have yet to hear all of the details of it, we want to make sure that it goes far enough to close all of the loopholes when we talk about background checks. We also know that they are looking at — looking towards states to pass red flag laws. We believe the federal government should act on that as well.

    And so there are other issues that, when the details come out, they will not, we don't believe, will — they will include all of the comprehensive commonsense gun laws that honestly, Stephanie, the majority of Americans support in this country.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    One policy I know you do not support is arming teachers.

    And Ohio's governor signed a bill yesterday that would give schools the option to allow school employees to be armed with only 24 hours of training. What is your reaction to that, Miss Pringle.

  • Becky Pringle:

    You know, Stephanie, I talked to the educators, some educators from Ohio, and they were in tears when I spoke with them last night, as a matter of fact, that their governor would sign into law anything that would put more responsibility on them.

    We know that our educators all over this country are focused on teaching and nurturing and supporting our students. For there to be a law that has them armed, which, of course, puts more guns in the schools, we know more guns equals more violence.

    And for them to bear that responsibility, it is absolutely, absolutely unconscionable, overwhelmingly do not support this.

    And let me tell you this statistic. In 2013, the state of Texas passed a similar law. Only 361 out of a possible nearly 370,000 teachers who are in the state of Texas actually took them up on that. So we know that's not a solution. It's not. It is a false idea. That won't do anything.

  • Stephanie Sy:



  • Stephanie Sy:

    Just to be clear, my understanding of the Ohio law just signed is that it gives teachers the options.

    So I just want to say that one of the perspectives from supporters of arming teachers is that it gives them the ability to protect themselves and their classrooms if they choose to be armed. Is there any scenario in which you see, with the proper training, that a teacher should have that option?

  • Becky Pringle:

    You know, I have talked to teachers all over this country.

    And I will tell you, as a teacher who taught for over 30 years, educators always take that additional responsibility on. They always feel like it's their responsibility to stand in the gaps for our students.

    So when laws like these are proposed, it puts that pressure on them that the society believes that they are the ones that should be defending our kids with guns. That's not OK to put that pressure on them. And we will continue to speak out against that.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    I know there are a lot of parents speaking out against that as well.

    Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

  • Becky Pringle:

    Thank you.

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