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As school districts across the country work to provide better security for students amid the heated debate on gun control, a VCU Poll released this week that shows Virginians are evenly split on the idea of arming teachers. The poll was conducted with 805 respondents over the last few weeks in between 2018 and 2019.

The findings based on geographical location are:

Western Virginia: 43 percent were strongly in favor, 20 percent were somewhat in favor, two percent were somewhat opposed, and 30 percent were strongly opposed.

Tidewater: 18 percent were strongly in favor, 36 percent were somewhat in favor, six percent were somewhat opposed, and 35 percent were strongly opposed.

Northwest: 27 percent were strongly in favor, 22 percent were somewhat in favor, 18 percent were somewhat opposed, and 29 percent were strongly opposed.

Northern Virginia: 20 percent were strongly in favor, 17 percent were somewhat in favor, 15 percent were somewhat opposed, and 47 percent were strongly opposed.

South Central: 18 percent were strongly in favor, 18 percent were somewhat in favor, eight percent were somewhat opposed, and 48 percent were strongly opposed.

All polled: 24 percent were strongly in favor, 23 percent were somewhat in favor, 10 percent were somewhat opposed, and 39 percent were strongly opposed.

In all, 47 percent of respondents agreed that teachers and school personnel should be allowed to be armed on campus grounds. Approximately 49 percent of Virginians disagreed.

Moreover, arming schools teachers is more likely to be favored by Republicans than Democrats.

As the General Assembly convened in Richmond yesterday, lawmakers are set to hear the priority recommendations from bipartisan Select Committee on School Safety, the first select committee formed in 155 years after last February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The committee staffed by Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) has provided 24 priority recommendations to bolster security at schools like increased mental health counseling, infrastructure upgrades, among other remedies.

However, the Lee County School Board unanimously approved training and arming some teachers and staff earlier this year amid a lack of funding to hire more school resource officers (SROs).

Both Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and Governor Ralph Northam (D) denounced the plan, with Herring adding in a news release that “Virginia law expressly limits who may possess firearms on school grounds for safety purposes, and the General Assembly declined to enact bills presented every year from 2013 through 2017 to extend this authority to school teachers and administrators.”

Though, as school safety is likely to be a large part of the 45-day General Assembly session, Lee County’s concerns and possible legal challenges may rise to one of the state’s most talked about issues.