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Trump’s education secretary pick says some schools might need guns — for a surprising reason

Brrendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, said Tuesday during her confirmation hearing that guns might be appropriate in some schools in order to fight off grizzly bears.

The comment came when Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has been a staunch advocate for gun control ever since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, asked DeVos if she believes guns have a place in public schools.

In response, DeVos said that whether firearms should be in schools or not is something that should be determined at the state and local levels.

But that answer didn't satisfy Murphy, who continued to press DeVos. The Michigan native then referred to a comment from Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who noted that a school in Wapiti, Wyoming had erected a fence along the perimeter to protect students from wildlife.

"I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," DeVos said, sparking some laughter.

A 2014 report from the Casper Star-Tribune found that the number of conflicts with grizzly bears in September 2014 — 245 — were roughly equal to the average number of reported incidents in a year. However, as the newspaper acknowledges, the term "conflict" doesn't necessarily mean a person was attacked.

Encounters leading to human injuries are rare. There were six people reported injured in 2013 and in 2012; none of them were fatal.

However, when it comes to arming school employees, it looks like public opinion is on DeVos's side. In 2013, one year after the Sandy Hook massacre,  a Rasmussen poll found that 62 percent of American parents said they would feel safer with an armed guard at their child's school while only 24 percent said they'd feel safer if their child went to a school where no adults were allowed to own a gun.

Another 2013 poll, conducted by PoliceOne.com among 15,000 current, former and retired law enforcement officers, found that a majority of cops, nearly 77 percent, believe arming teachers, as long as they are vetted, trained and annually qualified, is the right thing to do.

Ultimately, though, DeVos said she would support whatever Trump advocates for, but added that her "heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence."

Though Murphy didn't continue to press DeVos on Tuesday night, he did take to Twitter to voice his opposition to the education secretary nominee's perspective on guns.

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