Should Trained Teachers Carry Firearms?

Recently, the American public has been torn over the question of whether or not to arm educational staff for added security of our schools. In this post, I’ll be providing opinions and evidence from both sides of the argument, and will be seeing how our student body feels on this controversial topic.

Mass shootings, more specifically in schools or universities, have become an epidemic in recent years. In 2013, the organization Everytown began to track gunfire in educational facilities across the nation. In the 2015 report titled “Analysis of School Shootings” the group released information on 160 different incidents, which included any sort of fatal/nonfatal assault, suicide and unintentional shootings.

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Everytown Research’s map of school shootings in the United States. Highlighted in white is the most recent shooting, occurring on 1/4/2018 in Seattle, WA.

 

Of those 160 tracked shootings, 84 (53%) were at K-12 Schools and the other 76 (47%) took place at colleges or universities. 95 of the occurrences (over half of the attacks) the intruder(s) intentionally injured or murdered at least one other person. In eight of those the shooter followed up with a suicide. In 20 of the 160, the gunman (successfully) attempted suicide without first attacking others. 12 shootings were on ‘accident’ or involved unintentional discharge of the weapon. Finally, in the last 33 of the tracked incidents at least one shot was fired but no one was injured.

Since they began following shootings in 2013, Everytown has found that there have been more than 200 school shootings in the United States, roughly averaging to nearly one a week.

As with any epidemic, pressure has been applied on various ways to resolve the issue. However, this time there are people taking more aggressive approaches. Their plan? Arming teachers/professors. To some it may seem crazy, as wouldn’t supplying our educators with firearms only feed the fire? After all, creating more guns would only create more problems, right?

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Photo of a memorial built to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Scene captured by Gina Jacobs/Shutterstock.

Well, despite harsh criticism, schools and various facilities have already began to implement armed guards/staff into the workforce. In 2013, eight different states started to allow concealed carry in schools, announced Lauren Heintz of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Additionally, in 2015 CBS Cincinnati reported that 40 different school districts here in Ohio allow teachers with a concealed carry license to tote their firearms in class. Even though that may seem like a lot, there are currently over 600 school districts, and a larger part of the armed ones lie in the northernmost part of the state.

Despite the report, there currently is no official list over what schools in Ohio grant staff the right to conceal weapons. The way it is now, it isn’t very intuitive finding out which facilities allow their employees to bring in their firearms in self-defense. Even though school districts must adopt policies in public school board meetings, different Ohio laws allow their security plans to remain private, and only vocal districts publicly announced their approach.

As you would expect, there are mobs of those opposed to these changes. In his ‘State of the State’ address, governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy voices his concerns. “Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom.” Additionally, ex-Vice President Joe Biden holds the same views, stating “The last thing we need to do is arm teachers.” Many feel that adding more guns into the mix would be risky, as putting weapons in potentially unstable teachers’ hands would only create more problems. Another concern lies in the fact that if firearms are in the classrooms, either on a teacher’s person or somewhere in storage, that it may put a weapon closer into the hands of a distressed student/inspire a potential attacker.

Something else that causes disdain towards additional security are costs. The amount of money that states/school districts would need to place armed guards in every school of the nation is gargantuan to say the least. Edward W. Hill, Ph.D. published a report out of Cleveland, Ohio discussing that very topic. In his publication “The Cost of Arming Schools: The Price of Stopping a Bad Guy with a Gun” (2013) he mentions that just approving the NRA’s proposal at the time of implementing a guard into every educational facility across the US would cost roughly $13 billion dollars a year. That’s just for a single guard, and for ‘well protected’ schools costs could reach up to $23 billion. So, on top of potential danger, it would cost a pretty penny as well.

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Headshot of Dr. Edward W. Hill. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University (Faculty Profiles)

So with that, I took a tour around our school of West Clermont High to see how our student body feels on the issue. I printed out 40 different copies of a short anonymous survey to hand out to my peers. Of those interviewed, 16 (40%) agreed that arming teachers was a good idea, while the majority of 23 (57.5%) disagreed. The remaining student (2.5%) ended up being indecisive. I also asked if students would feel safer or more at risk if staff at our school were equipped with firearms. All 16 of those who agreed with the idea of ‘arming our educators’ felt that if our school took part in trained staff they would feel safer from potential threats. 20/23 ‘No’ voters all felt that they and the public would be more at risk, and it wouldn’t be beneficial.

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Grand entrance to West Clermont High School.

Another thing I asked went along the lines of “Should selected staff remain anonymous or be announced to the public?” Something which I thought would be answered with a resounding call for anonymity also ended with a distinct divide. Twelve of the 40 (30%) felt that information on armed staff should be public knowledge, while the other 28 (70%) answered that instead the information should be private and on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Finally, I concluded the survey asking if there is anything else they think I should know. While a vast majority of those surveyed left the optional space blank, multiple replied commenting that they feared what the teacher would use the weapon for (such as threatening students), or followed similar themes.

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An example of one of the anonymous surveys I handed out to students.

So, in the end positives and negatives both support and curse either side of the argument. Even with public backlash some schools have already implemented armed staff for security purposes, while the greater part of educational facilities are watching from the sidelines. Could those who strong-arm teachers set the example and lead the way for other schools, or will they instead remain outliers burdened with additional costs? Only time will tell.

 

Works Cited: EverytownResearch.org, Governing.com, BuckeyeFirearms.org

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