Hochul slams Zeldin’s idea to arm teachers, school safety agents with guns

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Governor Kathy Hochul holds campaign event with anti-gun violence advocates in Harlem. Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Governor Kathy Hochul Monday slammed her GOP opponent Rep. Lee Zeldin’s recent suggestion that teachers and school safety agents should start carrying firearms as a way to curtail the bodycount of school shootings.

Last week, Zeldin told CBS2 New York’s Marcia Kramer that arming teachers and school security guards would help save lives in the event that a gunman opens fire on school grounds.

“It improves the safety of the building. If there was someone who came into that building, you would be saying, thank God that teacher who was safely and securely carrying that firearm and was well-trained was able to intervene and to save lives,” Zeldin said in the interview.

Zeldin also suggested that school safety agents should be equipped with bulletproof vests, like police officers.

But Hochul rebuked that idea during a campaign stop with anti-gun violence advocacy groups like Moms Demand Action in Harlem Monday morning.

“Lee Zeldin not only supports guns on subways and in places of worship and in our parks and in places like Times Square,” Hochul told reporters. “He also now believes that the way to make your kids safer is to make sure that every classroom has a gun in it. Let that sink in. Every classroom should have a gun in it. That’s not happening under our administration. Not now, not ever.”

Governor Kathy Hochul taking questions from reporters following campaign event in Harlem on combating gun violence. Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Hochul called it “beyond shocking” that Zeldin would suggest arming teachers. Because, she said, it would send a clear message to anyone wanting to shoot up a school that they can find a loaded gun waiting for them in a classroom.

“To think that the way to make our children safer in a school setting is to tell all the criminals and individuals who’ve been radicalized on social media, who want to be involved in a high profile school massacre, ‘you can walk past the front door without a gun in your pocket, just go into the classroom and there’s a loaded gun waiting for you,’” Hochul said. “That’s what people have to realize Lee Zeldin has come up with as his solution for addressing crime. It’s absurd and it won’t happen here in the state of New York.”

Zeldin’s campaign didn’t respond to PoliticsNY’s requests for comment by post time.

The governor was joined by U.S. Reps. Jamal Bowman  (D-Bronx, Westchester) and Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, Bronx) and Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts as well as other gun safety advocates.

Bowman praised New York’s already strict gun laws and Hochul’s move to pass additional laws tightening firearm restrictions following a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket earlier this year that claimed the lives of 10 people and left three wounded. Those changes included raising the age that New Yorkers can buy an automatic weapon from 18 to 21 and strengthening the state’s Red Flag Law.

U.S. Rep. Jamal Bowman at Harlem campaign event for Governor Kathy Hochul with anti-gun violence advocates. Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

As a former principal and teacher, Bowman blasted Zeldin’s proposal to give teachers guns, saying the idea shows his “lack of competence” because more guns in schools will inevitably lead to more shootings.

“Lee Zeldin is talking about arming teachers, it shows a lack of confidence about what happens with our teachers, our students and our families and communities,” Bowman said. “This is a person running for governor talking about arming teachers. Guess what, when we have more guns, what do we have? More killing. And more of an opportunity for accidents to happen.”

Hochul has sharply pivoted her campaign message to concentrate on crime and highlighting her record on combating gun violence in the last couple of weeks, as the Nov. 8 election fast approaches. The shift in tactics followed several recent polls that showed Zeldin tightening what was once a significant gap between himself and the governor based on his almost singular focus on bringing down surging crime across the state.

Republican candidate for New York governor U.S. Rep Lee Zeldin participates in a debate against incumbent Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted by Spectrum News NY1 and WNYC, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at Pace University in New York.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool)

Meanwhile, Zeldin held a campaign rally in Westchester with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who beat the state’s former governor Terry McAuliffe in a hotly contested race last year. While taking questions from reporters at that event, Zeldin again beat the drum on addressing crime by getting Hochul out of office and reversing criminal justice policies championed by her and the Democrat-controlled state legislature.

“We’re not going to just look away, we’re not going to just ignore the reality,” Zeldin said. “Whether it’s the videos that ,all day long, are popping up on social media. Whether it’s on our subways, it’s on the streets. You don’t have to live inside of New York City to become a victim of violence. just over the last few weeks. New Yorkers are saying ‘enough.’ They want to see our law enforcement supported. They want DAs to enforce the law. And they want to roll back these pro-criminal laws that have been passed. Not pass more procurement laws.”

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