Should teachers be armed? | The Tylt
A little over a year after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Florida state legislature has passed legislation making it legal for teachers to carry guns in the classroom. Debate over the new law was heated, with many lawmakers expressing fears that racial biases could put minority students in danger. The law was also passed mere days after a middle school resource officer's gun went off accidentally in a cafeteria. Some argue that arming teachers will help protect students. What do you think?
Should teachers be armed?
The Trump administration has previously shown enthusiasm for the idea of arming teachers in classrooms. President Trump made his feelings known at a meeting at the White House shortly after the killing of 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Per The New York Times:
President Trump on Thursday enthusiastically embraced a National Rifle Association position to arm highly trained teachers to fortify schools against mass shootings like the one last week. Mr. Trump, who said the armed teachers should receive extra pay as an incentive, promoted his idea as demands for stronger gun control intensified across the country.
While there have been no long-term studies of whether arming teachers can dramatically reduce the number of school shootings or fatalities, a 2016 study from Johns Hopkins indicates that arming civilians does not appear to increase public safety. Per Mother Jones:
From 1966 to 2015, only 12 percent of 111 high-fatality mass shootings in the United States—at college campuses or elsewhere—took place in “gun free” zones, and only 5 percent took place in “gun restricted” zones, where security guards were armed but civilians were banned from carrying weapons. Another analysis, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, drew similar conclusions: Only 13 percent of mass shootings from 2009 to 2015 occurred in gun-free or gun-restricted zones. What’s more, allowing people to carry concealed weapons has been connected with an increase in violent crime, according to researchers at the Brennan Center for Justice. They noted a 10 percent average increase in violent crime in states that adopted right-to-carry laws.
...Separate research from the FBI shows similar results. The bureau looked at 160 active-shooter situations from 2000 to 2013 and found only one case where an armed civilian intervened to stop an attack that was underway. (And that civilian was a US Marine.) In 21 cases, an unarmed civilian interrupted the attack and restrained the gunman. In other words, unarmed civilians were far more likely than those with guns to stop an active shooting in progress.
Communities that already arm their educators are currently happy with the plans they have in place. In Sidney, Ohio, the Sidney City School district has a multi-step program in effect to help protect students, which includes a "secret group of 40 educators — teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries — called a 'first responder team' that can retrieve firearms in under a minute." Per The New York Times:
Rick Cron, the armed guard at Sidney Middle School, said he would put members of his team up against any law enforcement officer in Ohio. The state requires that officers fire 25 bullets a year; his team members shoot at least 600.
“It’s the teacher’s responsibility to protect the kids, no matter what, and they do it already,” Mr. Cron said, “but without the tools.”
Nicki New, the parent of three students in Sidney City Schools, said she felt safer dropping off her children knowing there were staff members equipped to respond to a parent’s worst nightmare.
“God forbid, if something would happen, knowing that not only a law enforcement officer is there, but there are teachers in that building who can give my child a fighting chance, is even more reassuring,” Ms. New said.
The Florida law passed along narrow party lines, carried through by Republican support. The law follows up similar legislation passed last year, allowing non-classroom teacher staff to carry guns in schools. The 2019 version of the law removes that restriction, allowing all staff to carry weapons. According to Reuters, supporters believe teachers and staff could stop an active shooter before first responders could arrive.
Backers of arming classroom teachers revived the issue this year, arguing that school shootings often erupt too quickly for law enforcement to respond.
In anticipation of passage, school employees in 40 of Florida’s 67 counties already enrolled in or planned to take the 144-hour course, a spokesman for the Speaker of the House said. Some counties have resolved not to participate in the Guardian program.
The law does not have unanimous support. Democratic lawmakers vehemently opposed the law. Many black legislators proposed amendments that would require teachers to receive "implicit bias" training in hopes of preventing racially fueled altercations from escalating into violence that could hurt students of color.
According to the Washington Post, some lawmakers and educators also worried about how likely it would be that teachers could stop active shooters or prevent tragic accidents.
It is opposed, however, by educators statewide. Their objections were amplified on the House floor by Democrats, who also cited two incidents on Tuesday as proof that greater access to guns on campuses would be unwise. At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a gunman killed two students and injured four others. Earlier in the day, a gun went off in a school resource officer’s holster in a middle school cafeteria in Wesley Chapel, Fla. No one was injured.
“We see accidents happening every day,” said Democratic state Rep. Susan Valdes, a former school board member from Tampa. “I must stand with the children who have asked me, ‘Don’t put more guns in our schools.’”
While the law applies statewide, many school districts have chosen to opt out. Per NPR:
The superintendent of schools in Broward County, where Parkland is located, said that the county will continue to not arm teachers.
"The Broward County School Board voted on a resolution against arming teachers in March 2018," Robert Runcie said in a statement to the Herald. "We do not believe arming teachers is the best way to make our schools safe."