The Buzz

Is Arming Schoolteachers a Good Idea?

In the wake of the horrific mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which a lone gunman killed seventeen people, the debate over gun control has erupted with renewed fury not experienced since the tragic Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. When a mass murder is committed with a firearm, the political debate over guns predictably takes center stage, as the factions that seek further civilian disarmament renew their calls for change in policy while Second Amendment defenders dig in to resist. In this argument over legislation governing inanimate objects, the opportunity is lost to take measures that may truly work towards thwarting the next mass killer. One such notion that garners particular controversy is the proposal to arm teachers and other school staff.

A policy to arm educators proves a culturally divisive subject, as is gun legislation itself. Those who favor further gun regulation typically oppose arming teachers: for these individuals, the solution lies in prohibiting access to weaponry. Those who oppose gun control typically do so because it violates the Second Amendment, and fails to disarm criminals in a nation already awash with hundreds of millions of firearms. Therefore, arming teachers so that they may prove a front line of defense against these threats appeals primarily to those who resist further firearms restriction. However, arming teachers hardly proves a decisive issue, even among gun-rights supporters. Much misunderstanding regarding the feasibility and safety of this proposal can be attributed to political agendas, but there also remains a general ignorance as to what an armed-teacher program would actually entail.

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Who Would Be Armed?

This is where much misunderstanding and speculation comes in. In the mind of the gun-control advocate, the image of pistols being handed out to all school personnel at the front door at the beginning of the work day dominates the discussion. Anti-gun educators are appalled by the thought that they may be pressed into embracing such a responsibility. This, of course, is not actually what is being proposed by those who support arming school staff. Even among people who are ardent Second Amendment supporters, only a relatively small percentage opt to carry a gun on a daily basis. It is a personal and lifestyle commitment that can’t be taken lightly, so the idea of it becoming a mandatory responsibility is absurd—and rightly so. Most who argue for arming teachers do not propose making anything compulsory, but rather seek to permit educators to be armed, if they wish to embrace the extra responsibility and sufficient training.

While much of the mainstream media portrays overwhelming opposition to armed teachers, many educators themselves are supportive of the idea, and a good number would prove willing to undergo the mandatory training. One human resource that is already available, and which should serve as a starting point, are those educators who already have a concealed carry permit. Obviously, this may be a scarce commodity in some urban communities, but certainly in suburban and rural school districts, teachers who already have a carry permit will be available. While further and specialized training needs to be provided, teachers who already have a permit demonstrate that they have the willingness to be armed for personal protection. Many would readily volunteer to meet the training requirements to be armed on school property.

Beyond educators, school staff should be heavily considered for being armed. Custodians, office workers and other administrative staff potentially serve as even more viable options than teachers, as their role entails less direct interaction with students on a daily basis; their ability to be more free-roaming within the building, as opposed to being tied to a single classroom, makes such staff a potentially more formidable line of defense. An ideal breakdown of armed school personnel would see a combination of at least several educators and other staff armed at all times when on premises.

Examples of Armed School Staff Already in Place

Many talk about arming school personnel like it is a novel idea. The truth is that a number of jurisdictions have implemented this security solution—some for a long time. These districts have a good record both in safety from accidents as well as in mitigation of school violence. The first example is the state of Utah, which has had a program in place to train public-school educators for quite some time. As a state, Utah does not prohibit concealed-carry permit holders from carrying on school property, so educators who simply have a carry permit can carry legally on premises. There have been no incidents in which students have been harmed due to this policy. A number of organizations provide specialized training for educators within the state, and many have taken this training.

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