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Arkansas school district's plan to arm teachers ruled illegal

Danny Johnston / AP file

A Clarksville, Ark., schools faculty member, wearing a protective mask, carries a practice handgun toward a classroom in a training exercise July 11.

A controversial program to arm teachers and school staff members in an Arkansas town was shot down Thursday as illegal under state law.

The Clarksville School District, in central Arkansas northwest of Little Rock, instituted an "Emergency Response Team" last month in response to the mass shootings in December that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"We continue to have these school shootings, and we continue to do the same thing," Superintendent David Hopkins told NBC station KARK of Little Rock after a training exercise July 11 for teachers and staff — complete with fake guns.

"We're going to lock the door, and we're going to hide and hope for the best," he said. "Well, that's not a plan."

The new plan — which would have armed about 20 volunteer teachers and staff members — troubled some legislators, who sought a ruling on its legality from state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

In an opinion issued Thursday, McDaniel said state codes don't authorize "either licensing a school district as a guard company or classifying it as a private business authorized to employ its own teachers as armed guards."

McDaniel said the opinion doesn't prohibit school districts' contracting with licensed private security companies, and he said that if lawmakers do want teachers to be armed, they can change state law.

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Eighteen states allow adults to carry loaded weapons onto school grounds with few or minor conditions, according to an NBC News review of firearms and education laws in all 50 states. Arkansas isn't among them.