FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul promoted the idea of arming principals and teachers as an effective preventive measure to make schools safer, vowing Wednesday to fight any of President Barack Obama's executive actions that weaken constitutional gun rights.
The Kentucky Republican said he was horrified by the shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, but said tough gun control measures haven't worked in U.S. cities still plagued by high crime and murder rates. He said he would resist efforts to chip away at the Second Amendment.
"It doesn't say you have the right to keep and bear arms that shoot five bullets and not six bullets," he told a civic group in Frankfort.
Paul said he doesn't see the need to assign armed security guards to schools — an idea promoted by the National Rifle Association.
But Kentucky's junior senator defended the idea of allowing principals and teachers who have permits to carry concealed guns to bring those weapons to school.
"I'd feel safer if the principal at my school had concealed carry and had a gun in his drawer locked up," Paul said. "I'd feel safer if teachers had it, too."
Afterward, Paul said that schools would need to be comfortable with allowing staff to have quick access to guns. He said safety restrictions would be essential, including having the weapons be locked up in schools.
He said that arming certain school staff could be a strong deterrent and provide a chance to thwart an attack.
"If you're in an area where no guns are allowed and only the criminals bring them on board, then you're defenseless," he said.
"People say, 'you'd never be able to bring him (a gunman) down, you might hit other people,'" Paul added. "There's all kinds of conjecture. But the bottom line is when you're there defenseless and have no weapon, you've got no way to protect yourselves."
Paul said it's probably a state issue and he doesn't have plans to push for federal legislation to arm school staff.
He promised a strong push back, however, if he concludes that Obama overstepped his executive powers to enact 23 gun-related measures on Wednesday that don't require the backing of lawmakers. Paul said he hadn't been able to review the executive orders yet.
"If he's creating law through an executive order, that's abhorrent to the Constitution," Paul said. "It contradicts the Constitution. I will fight that with every bone in my body if he is trying to create legislation and usurp the Second Amendment."
The president's executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.
Paul touched on an array of issues, including budget cuts, entitlement programs and immigration, during his remarks to a Rotary club.
Paul said that Republicans should be willing to accept defense cuts as part of a broad compromise to get the federal government's spending under control.
"I won't allow our defenses to be weakened, but I also don't think we just have a blank check for the military," he said.
Afterward, Paul said that cutting the number of U.S. military bases overseas would be one way to pare the Pentagon's budget. Paul said he doesn't see a need to close more military installations in the U.S.
In return for defense cuts, he said, Democrats need to accept cuts to popular entitlement programs. Those programs are draining the federal Treasury as the large Baby Boom generation retires and lives longer, he said.
Paul suggested gradually raising the full retirement age to 70 and providing smaller benefits for wealthy retirees as ways to solidify Social Security's finances. He stressed that the changes should not affect current retirees.