“We don’t have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution. A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible, holstered weapon, but our teachers have master’s degrees, are older and have had extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children.” – Superintendent David Thweatt
The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting has brought gun control to the forefront of American political debates in recent weeks. Op-eds have been written, televised debates have been broadcast, and even a petition to have Piers Morgan deported for “waging war on the Second Amendment” has been signed (by more than 91,000 people) in the wake of the shooting. A good portion of the debate has, with good reason, focused on the idea of teachers carrying firearms in schools.
U.S. school districts have spent millions of dollars fortifying their buildings, doling out money for metal detectors, security cameras, and security officers. However, security officers can be taken down by an assailant, as they stand out, and cameras merely help catch criminals, not prevent crimes. In Texas there is a district that has not spent a dime on security, yet it is the most secure school district in America. Since 2007, when the “Guardian Plan” took effect, teachers in Harrold, Texas have been able to carry concealed firearms on school grounds in order to protect students. Superintendent David Thweatt made an excellent point when he highlighted the fact that teachers are the first line of defense against a potential threat. When a shooter is in the building, calling the police won’t help. Thweatt understands that defense needs to be provided “not four, five minutes or six minutes” from the time the shooter enters the building, but at that exact moment. Furthermore, the “five minutes” Thweatt estimates is generous, since the police are not even required to show up. DeShaney v. Winnebago County, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, and Warren v. District of Columbia are all cases where courts have held that the police do not have a duty to protect citizens. The only way to truly be safe in America is to be armed.
But arming people isn’t going to do much good if the people wielding the weapons are not trained on how to store and use them safely. The Utah Shooting Sports Council offered teachers concealed weapons carry training for free this year and instead of a dozen showing up like last year, more than 200 teachers showed up this year. Since Utah allows people to carry licensed concealed weapons on school property, teachers will be able to defend their students if they wish without any special district rules. In Washington, Liz Pike, a state congressional representative, recently proposed a law that would allow teachers to carry on school grounds. Pike’s plan requires psychological testing and firearm training to ensure that the teachers are qualified. Arizona’s attorney general is also proposing a change to state law, which would allow one teacher in each school to carry a gun. This would allow the educator with the most training to carry. Trained teachers are the only efficient way to protect our schools.
However, many people in Indiana, which has in place a loophole that allow teachers to carry if they are designated as security officers, find it “crazy” to allow armed teachers in the classroom. School safety consultant Chuck Hibbert, a former Indiana state trooper, explained his concerns as such: students may be able to overpower teachers and take away their guns, stray bullets may hit innocent students, and teachers may not store the guns properly. The stray bullets argument is flimsy for three reasons. The first is that the teachers are trained. The second is that the shooter would shoot them anyways, and with intent to kill, too. And the third is that the police have the same problem; just ask the Empire State shooting victims, all of whom were struck by stray police bullets. The “not stored properly” argument is also solved by training. The “someone may overpower the teacher” arguments are a little more complex, but consider this. If a teacher isn’t strong enough to stop a fight or a shooting or whatever without a gun, then he has automatically lost that battle if he is unarmed. However, if he is armed, at least he has a chance of downing the assailant and putting an end to the mess. So, if I have to choose between a zero percent chance of success against an assailant versus a chance of winning or getting disarmed, I will chose the second, because at least I have some chance of succeeding.
Every state needs to adopt a policy that allows teachers to carry concealed weapons on school property. It is the only cost effective way to ensure the safety of our nation’s children. Sure, accidents and shootings may occur, but most arguments used by opponents of these measures are exaggerated. If you are hesitant about supporting policies such as these, just look at the outcome of the Aurora theater shooting compared to that of the recent San Antonio theater shooting. In the first case, nobody was allowed to carry a gun into the movies, and 70 people were shot; in the second case, patrons were allowed to carry guns, and only one innocent bystander was shot. Guns are the surest way to defend our students.
Adam Ondo | University of Rochester | @JoplinMaverick