Teachers have flocked to a Utah firearms training programme to teach them how to tackle an armed assault like the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six teachers died this month.

More than 200 teachers responded to the Mass Violence Response Training course offered by the Utah Shooting Sports Council, a week after the National Rifle Association, the powerful national gun lobby group, launched a campaign to put armed guards in every school in America.

Utah is one of two states that allows licensed teachers to carry concealed firearms on school premises.

"I'm thinking this would be a great opportunity to protect the children and protect the teachers if that opportunity arose. That's the reason I'm here," Stephen Pratt, a third-grade teacher told a local television channel. Kasey Hansen, a special education teacher from Salt Lake City, said after the training session: "If we should ever face a shooter like the one in Connecticut, I'm fully prepared to respond with my firearm," adding that she planned to buy a weapon and take it to work.


After the Sandy Hook shootings, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, provoked a fierce reaction from teachers' unions and gun control advocates by suggesting it was "crazy" not to put armed guards in schools, as was common in federal buildings.

Even in Utah, the idea of encouraging teachers to carry weapons has drawn criticism. "It's a terrible idea," Carol Lear, a lawyer for the Utah Office of Education, told Fox News.

However, the idea appears to be gaining ground in some southern and western states, where gun ownership is high.

In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced plans to deploy an armed volunteer force to protect school students.

Police in Los Angeles were shocked when the city's annual gun buy-back programme yielded 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns and two rocket launchers.

- Agencies