McDonnell (R) and O’Malley (D), the outgoing chairmen of their parties’ national governors groups, are used to deep-blue Maryland and purple Virginia differing on a host of issues. But the stakes are higher now as the shootings at Sandy Hook put pressure on elected officials to face the renewed debate over guns.
During the “Ask the Governor” radio show on WTOP on Tuesday, McDonnell was asked whether teachers and principals should be armed inside schools.
“I know there’s been a knee-jerk reaction against that,” McDonnell said. “I think there should at least be a discussion of that. If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools.”
Early this year, Virginia lawmakers repealed a 19-year-old law that had limited handgun purchases to one per month. They also stripped localities of the right to require fingerprints from people applying for concealed-handgun permits. Carrying a concealed weapon with a permit is legal in the state, but not at schools.
“Right now we have a complete ban [at schools], and I’ve been supportive of that,” McDonnell said. “But I think that’s a discussion that is probably timely. Especially, you look at the facts . . . in Connecticut, where this person went into the principal’s office and actually killed the principal, who was lunging . . . at the perpetrator heroically to try to stop him. If a person like that was armed and trained, could they have stopped the carnage in the classroom? Perhaps.”
McDonnell did not completely dismiss the idea of restricting large ammunition clips like the kind police say Adam Lanza used in Newtown, but he said he thinks the problem is rooted in mental illness and a culture that does not value life.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) noted that some people similarly argued after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that the shootings could have been prevented if more guns were allowed on campus, drawing a sharp rebuke from some families of victims. “I think it’s an outrageous, extreme and reprehensible statement,” Connolly said of McDonnell’s comments.
In Annapolis, O’Malley questioned whether arming school officials is “the most prudent course.”
“It’s hard to imagine a level of weaponry that a security guard . . . would be carrying on their belt that could have resisted the sort of attack that that individual perpetrated in Newtown,” he said.