PoliGraph: Little evidence to support Cornish’s gun claims

This coming legislative session, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, plans to introduce a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in school.

He says it’s a necessary step to prevent further tragedies like last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

In statements to Minnesota Public Radio, Cornish said such a law would put Minnesota in line with other countries and states.

“Israel had a problem with classroom shootings and instituted this policy and shut them down,” he said. “Texas has this policy and Michigan sent it to the Governor 24 hours before the [Connecticut] tragedy.”

There’s little evidence to support Cornish’s claims.

The Evidence

To support his claim that Israel armed its teachers to prevent students from being shot, Cornish sent a link to a 2008 Christian Broadcasting Network report about an attack by Palestinian terrorists at a high school in southeast Jerusalem.

But the story mentioned nothing about teachers being armed at the school. Cornish followed up to say that “some of the confusion was that many people saw persons carrying guns in schools and on field trips, assuming they were teachers. It is still unclear if the guards were teachers or were volunteers or received some compensation.”

At least one 2006 MSNBC story refuted Cornish’s claim and news reports since the Sandy Hook shooting have highlighted aspects of Israel’s gun laws that are stricter than those in the United States. An NBC story written this month points out that some schools in Israel have armed guards, but that it is very difficult for a civilian to get a gun.

Calls made by MPR News to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and emails to Israel’s public safety department were not returned.

Ultimately, PoliGraph could find no solid evidence that Israeli teachers are armed to protect their students. Most reporting on the subject focuses on how difficult it is for Israeli civilians to obtain guns or refutes the idea that teachers carry guns. A search of news clips on Lexis Nexis found that mention of Israeli teachers and guns is limited to blog posts and letters to the editor, not reputable news sources.

Cornish also said that Texas teachers are armed in school. But it appears that only one school district in Harrold, Texas, allows the practice, a decision made by the school board and adopted under a broad provision of the penal code, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliff.

According to the decision, the board is authorized to let some school employees to carry guns so long as they have obtained and maintain a current license to carry a concealed handgun, and complete additional training required by the board.

Otherwise, there is no statewide law in Texas that allows teachers to carry guns, and Ratcliff says the agency knows of no other district in the state that has followed the Harrold district’s lead. That said, Gov. Rick Perry has expressed support for the district’s decision.

Cornish also mentioned a Michigan proposal to allow teachers to carry guns in schools that was approved by the state legislation the day before the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s true that the legislature approved such legislation, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the bill.

The Verdict

PoliGraph rates Cornish’s claim false because evidence that the other countries and states he mentioned arm teachers is anecdotal or limited at best.

SOURCES

Minnesota Public Radio, Gun control efforts in Minn. face cloudy future, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 18, 2012

CBN News, Terrorists Target Israeli Students, Tzippe Barrow, Jan. 25, 2008

Israel Today, Are Israeli teachers armed?, by Ron Cantor, Dec. 17, 2012

MSNBC, Wis. lawmaker wants teachers to carry guns, Associated Press, Oct. 5, 2006

The Jerusalem Post, Israeli gun control regulations ‘opposite of US’, by Ben Hartman, Dec. 18, 2012

NBC News, Conn. massacre lessons from Israel, where guns are a way of life, by Paul Goldman, Dec. 18, 2012

The New York Times, In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns, by James McKinley Jr., Aug. 28, 2008

Harrold ISD Safety Program/Risk Management Emergency Plans, accessed Dec. 21, 2012

CBS-DFW, Newly Elected State Rep. Says Texas Teachers Should Be Allowed To Carry Guns, Dec. 18, 2012

Bloomberg News, Snyder deciding on Michigan gun in school bill days after deaths, by Tim Higgins and Chris Christoff, Dec 18, 2012

ABC News, Michigan Veto Preserves ‘Gun Free’ Schools, by Dec. 18, 2012

Email exchange, Rep. Tony Cornish, Dec. 20, 2012

Email exchange, Debbie Ratcliff, spokeswoman, Texas Education Agency, Dec. 20, 2012

Interview, Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Federations of North America, Dec. 20, 2012

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