Kansas GOP attorney general candidate eager to arm teachers to blunt school massacres

Mattivi argues quick, deadly response essential to saving students’ lives

By: - June 27, 2022 2:47 pm
Former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi, a Republican candidate for attorney general, defended his view that Kansas teachers with firearm training should be given the option of carrying a weapon in classrooms and schools to defend against armed attackers. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi, a Republican candidate for attorney general, defended his view that Kansas teachers with firearm training should be given the option of carrying a weapon in classrooms and schools to defend against armed attackers. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas attorney general candidate Tony Mattivi said Monday allowing teachers with firearm training to voluntarily carry inside school classrooms should be part of an effective defense against gunmen intent on mass murder.

Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor campaigning for the Republican nomination, said examination of mass shootings revealed the longer the wait for an armed person to confront the shooter, the more people died.

“On average, an attacker shoots one victim every 10 seconds. That means six victims every minute,” Mattivi said. “There are two enemies in a mass shooting: the shooter and the clock. What saves lives in a mass shooting is to neutralize the threat. The only way to do that is to take the shooter down as quickly as possible.”

He said one piece of a comprehensive response to school violence would be a law enabling qualified educators the option of maintaining “safe, secure and immediate access to a firearm” on school property.

Sharon Hartin Iorio, former dean of the College of Education at Wichita State University, said she objected to calls by Mattivi and others for Kansas to join 28 states that authorized teachers to carry guns in schools. She said Mattivi and the other GOP candidates for attorney general, Kellie Warren and Kris Kobach, endorsed the strategy of putting firearms with reach of classroom educators.

“Not everyone thinks this is a good idea,” she said in the Hays Post. “The National Education Association and its Kansas affiliates advocate for schools to be gun-free.”

Iorio said school personnel with a handgun wouldn’t be much a match for active shooters wielding military-grade rifles.

“Would we expect armed teachers to undergo SWAT-level training, access AR-15 style weapons and wear body armor and helmets at school activities including bus transportation?” Iorio said.

Iorio questioned how armed teachers would communicate with unarmed colleagues during a crisis. She wondered whether the state would grant 18-year-old high school students with equivalent training the opportunity to carry firearms in school along with teachers.

“The reality is we may feel better by putting guns in teachers’ hands, but it won’t make our schools safer,” she said. “We need to elect an attorney general in November who will enforce a statewide, widely publicized plan for increasing communication, training and coordination of law enforcement agencies. The threat of school shootings is significant and increasing. It’s time for voters to act now.”

Mattivi said retired law enforcement officers and military combat veterans serving as teachers or administrators shouldn’t be prevented from having access to a firearm in a Kansas school. Not everyone working in classrooms would be expected to carry a weapon, he said.

He said the addition of firearms would be blended with investment in hardening school entrances and deploying a larger security presence to deter people searching for soft targets. Individuals allowed into school buildings should be first met by a school resource officer, he said.

“We can all agree that we should be trying to make our schools fully safe,” Mattivi said. “But until they are, we should be doing anything we can to make them more safe.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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