A Utah elementary school teacher who was carrying a concealed firearm at school accidentally shot herself in the leg when the weapon discharged in a faculty bathroom shortly before classes started Thursday morning, officials said.
The teacher at Westbrook Elementary School, in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, was severely injured when the bullet entered and exited her leg, and she was rushed to a hospital, Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said. She was in good condition and alert at the hospital by midmorning, Horsley said.
No other faculty or students witnessed the shooting, but they might have heard the gunshot or seen the teacher as she was taken out of the school to the hospital, he said.
Classes were continuing as usual, and crisis counselors were available, Horsley said. Officials were still investigating how the gun discharged. “This just appears at this point in time to be an accident,” he said.
He wouldn’t release details about the woman or what she taught, but he noted she was carrying the weapon legally with a concealed-firearm permit.
Utah is among the few states that allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in public schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking.
Educators have said they have no way of determining how many Utah teachers are armed, but gun-rights advocates have estimated that 1 percent, or about 240 teachers in the state, are licensed to carry weapons.
Under Utah law, teachers and staff without a concealed-carry permit can still bring a gun to school if an administrator approves, if they happen to live on school property, or if they work in law enforcement.
The Granite School District requires teachers who carry guns at school to keep the weapons with them at all times, including inside a bathroom stall, Horsley said.
Some people are surprised to learn about Utah’s law and ask why teachers are allowed to have guns, he said.
“That’s frankly not a question we can answer,” Horsley said. “That is a question for the state legislature.”
“This is exactly what we are working against,” said Miriam Walkingshaw, co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, which is opposed to guns in schools.
The risk of having any guns near children is greater than any risk teachers hope to prevent, she said.
The lack of disclosure about which teachers are carrying guns is a problem, Walkingshaw said. “I feel like I should have a right to know whether my child’s teacher is carrying a gun,” she said.
Gun-rights advocates say teachers can act faster than law enforcement in the first few minutes of any attack at a school.
The Utah Shooting Sports Council, the state’s biggest gun lobby, has offered free basic gun training classes to teachers.
“We trust our kids with teachers every day,” Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, told The Associated Press in March 2013. “Why do we think they’ll be any danger?”
Aposhian did not return messages Thursday seeking comment.