Jeff Johnson is head of the Children's Center, a licensed child care facility for special needs children. Credit: CBS 13

The head of four child care centers in Maine says he wants to arm himself to protect children with special needs, but state regulations don’t allow firearms at licensed child care facilities.

Jeff Johnson, head of the Children’s Center, a licensed child care facility for special needs children, said he wants to have the right to have a gun inside his four Children’s Center locations in Augusta, Gardiner, Skowhegan and Norridgewock.

“An engaged, armed security presence will either stop that event from taking place initially or will slow it down until first responders can arrive,” Johnson said.

For Johnson, the Parkland school shooting in Florida hit close to home because he used to live there.

Then there was the manhunt after Somerset County sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole was fatally shot.

“An active shooter event can happen here, can happen in Skowhegan, can happen in Parkland,” Johnson said.

Johnson said if the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut taught us anything, it’s that even the most vulnerable children are susceptible to violence.

“Our kids cannot understand verbal instruction often times,” Johnson said. “And they can’t move quickly.”

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services denied Johnson’s initial request to arm himself due to “the high risk of compromising children’s safety.”

“It was a one-sentence ‘no’ because we think the kids will actually be in more danger,” Johnson said.

This week, he appealed.

Johnson said he won’t take vital services away from the children to pay for an armed resource officer.

Johnson said he’s taken a firearms safety course, passed the range qualifying test that law officers take, and three sheriffs wrote letters of support.

“It’s not going to happen necessarily always someplace else,” Johnson said. “It can happen here. It happened in my hometown.”

Even if the Department of Health and Human Services grants a waiver to allow Johnson to have a gun inside the Children’s Center, he would still have to get approval from the Children’s Center board.

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