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Most Utahns support guns in classrooms, a new polls finds, but they also want to know which teachers are packing heat.
The survey from UtahPolicy.com found that 64 percent of likely voters think teachers should "definitely" or "probably" be allowed to carry concealed weapons in the classroom, with 60 percent of voters saying educators who bring guns to school should be required to inform parents and school administrators.
"Utahns really don't seem to have a problem with guns in the classroom, at least concealed weapons by the teachers," said Bryan Schott, managing editor of UtahPolicy.com.
The survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates and polled 395 likely voters Sept. 16-18, a week after a Utah teacher's concealed weapon discharged in a faculty restroom before school started Sept. 11. Released Monday, it has a margin of error of 4.93 percent. Utah Policy's polls are paid for by Zions Bank.
Schott said Utah Policy decided to conduct the poll after Westbrook Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery shot herself in the leg while using a faculty restroom.
He said Utah Policy's last poll dealing with guns in schools was conducted by Dan Jones in January 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn. At that time, 59 percent of Utahns polled believed teachers should be able to carry concealed weapons in schools. Another 82 percent said administrators and parents should be notified by teachers who are armed. That number has dropped more than 20 points in the new poll.
Despite support for informing parents, Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said that a 60 percent majority of Utah voters would likely be insufficient to drive changes to Utah's gun laws.
"It would take more than that and it would take people contacting their own legislators," she said.
Moss sponsored a bill in 2013 that would have given a parent the right to move their student to a new classroom if a teacher carries a concealed firearm. The bill was effectively dead on arrival, failing to be heard in committee.
Schott said it seemed like it was time to get Utah's pulse about guns in classrooms.
"We felt enough time had passed between  and this poll just to look at people's attitudes," he said.
The new poll also asked participants about school safety, with 66 percent saying that concealed weapons contribute to safer Utah classrooms.
Ferguson-Montgomery remains on paid leave pending the results of a criminal and administrative review of the shooting, Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said.
He said officers with the district's police department are finalizing their investigation and, when finished, the incident will be screened for potential criminal charges and handed over to administrators for any disciplinary action.
"We just want to make sure we have all the details," Horsley said.
Horsley also said that in accordance with state law, teachers in Granite School District are not required to disclose to administrators when they carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
"They're not required to (tell) and so we don't ask," he said.
At the time of the Taylorsville shooting, most Westbrook Elementary parents interviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune were not alarmed by Ferguson-Montgomery's accident and were satisfied with the district's initial response and communication.
Schott said the poll suggests a majority of Utahns would support a change to Utah gun laws to require disclosure by teachers, but he did not anticipate the poll results becoming a call to action at the Legislature.
"A lot of times," he said, "when there is a debate about gun policy, especially when it comes to schools, legislators can get sucked down a rabbit hole."
Moss said its strange that so much discussion at the Legislature is focused on parents' rights, but current law does not allow a parent to be aware of and determine the environment that their children are being taught in.
"You can opt out of having your kids listen to a discussion of sex education, but you can't opt out if you don't want your child in a classroom where a teacher carries a gun," she said. "It's just a contradiction."