Arming Teachers: Questions Asked … And Answered

Written by Rob Morse on March 16, 2018

Defending our students is a serious issue. It deserves more thought than a sound bite or a tweet. Unfortunately, politics is driven by emotion rather than reason, by appearances rather than by facts. I’ve heard bad arguments about arming teachers and about disarming them. Let’s look at the issue piece at a time. Let’s separate fact from fiction.

Perhaps you’ve heard this.

Should teachers be armed at school?
Each of us has something different in mind when we think about “allowing guns in schools.” Even the definition of school is different from state to state. Regulations may extend from daycare facilities to postgraduate research sites and hospitals. These “schools” may be privately owned, operated by a church, or publicly funded. Do the regulations cover the classroom during school hours, or the parents’ van when students are on a fieldtrip after school? Describing what we mean eliminates a lot of soundbite confusion.

The issue is complicated. Who is responsible for authorizing armed staff? Is it the school principal, the school board, or the local sheriff? Usually they are all involved in approving a program and selecting volunteers.

“I’ll quit teaching if they make me carry a gun in class.”
I’ve studied this subject for years and I have not found a single example of school staff being ordered to carry on campus. ‘The programs allow trained and authorized staff to be armed rather than forcing anyone to carry a gun at school.

Should selected school staff be allowed to go armed to protect themselves and others?
A school board usually makes the decision to arm staff. The board then looks for volunteers who already have a concealed carry permit. If selected, then the volunteers are often screened by the sheriff. Training may be local or at the state level.

Teachers don’t want to carry guns.
The answer you get depends on who you ask. Recent training classes for school staff have been full to overflowing. I know of training programs which trained over a thousand educators yet they had to turn qualified teachers away because they didn’t have enough money to train everyone who wanted to attend. Fortunately, enough teachers want to be trained to protect our students.

Guns don’t belong at school. That isn’t a place for violence.
This statement confuses reality with fantasy. In fact, violence is in our schools every day and has been for awhile. Our children are more likely to be the victims of violence in our schools than when they are at home. Students are more likely to be killed by violence in schools than by accidents like fire or earthquake. We conduct fire and earthquake drills at school, but we ignored the greater threat of deliberate violence…until now.

I’m here to love and nurture these kids. How does a gun help me do that?
Guns aren’t the answer. How can violence ever stop violence?

A firearm is a tool. That tool can help stop people from perpetrating violence against others. That is the very reason a million law enforcement officers carry a gun. That is why about 20 million civilians legally carry a concealed firearm in public. Armed defense only is part of a safety solution that also includes door locks, first aid kits, and training.

Leave the guns for the police, not for school staff.
We have not seen a gun-free school. Time is the enemy when an attacker comes on campus. Police need minutes to respond to the attacker. It may take EMTs hours to treat the injured. That means too many students will die while we wait. Volunteers at school want to stop the threat and treat the injured until help arrives. What tools should we give them?

Policemen have training that teachers don’t, so teachers are not qualified to defend students.
Armed school staff are defenders. They don’t have to do the many jobs that we ask of the police. Teachers don’t need to make high-speed chases or write tickets. Teachers don’t make arrests, preserve evidence, or testify in court. The program to train school staff varies from state to state, but in the programs I’ve seen, trained teachers did very well. They were required to perform above the level set for police officers in their shooting qualification.

Teachers also have hidden advantages over law enforcement. Teachers know their school and their students. Armed civilians are less likely to shoot innocent bystanders than the police.

We can’t arm staff because it is illegal to bring guns in school.
In some states it is legal and in some states it is illegal. School districts arm school staff in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio. Hundreds of school districts have programs in place. Thousands of teachers are armed in schools today. Unfortunately, I’ve heard school and law enforcement officials lie about what can be done inside the law. If necessary, we can and should change laws to protect our students.

Our insurance company won’t let us bring guns on campus.
That may be true, but it isn’t the whole truth. Some insurance companies insure schools and churches with armed staff. The insurance rates are comparable with unprotected schools. Insurance companies look at risks. Leaving our children unprotected presents a risk of loss and of lawsuits. Arming teachers presents some risk depending on the level of training that school staff receive.

We shouldn’t have to arm teachers.
We already protect our students today. We design our schools to withstand fire and natural disasters. We protect our students from people as well as from nature. We don’t release the children to strangers, and we report abuse when we see it. We want to protect our students from every threat they face.

Some school staff want to protect students from bad people who come on campus. I want to encourage them and thank them. They are there to protect my children when I can’t be there.

I gave you 900 words. Please leave a comment and a rating. What do you think about arming trained school staff? RM