Arming teachers with guns is a contentious topic. The rash of shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and elsewhere have only fueled the debate. No matter what you believe, we can all agree that there is no easy solution to stop these random acts of violence. Many argue that arming teachers and staff members is the best short-term solution. What are the pros and cons of arming teachers and staff members? And what training is available to those who choose to carry a firearm? You may not be aware of it, but National Train a Teacher Day (NTATD) is dedicated to training teachers on how to response to emergencies.
Pros to Arming Teachers
Arming teachers and staff gives them a fighting chance. Take for instance the example of Joel Myrick, the former assistant principal at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, who stopped a student’s attack.
“I didn’t grow up around guns,” Kasey Hansen, a middle school teacher from Utah, stated in an interview with ABS News following the Sandy Hook shooting. “I was in my second year of teaching, and it broke my heart to think all the teachers could do was huddle their kids on a corner, stand in front of them and pray that nothing was going to come through that classroom door.” This prompted her to obtain a concealed carry permit and get the necessary training to defend her students. While Kasey now works for Western Governors University, she told the USCCA that she carries to this day.
Lori Snyder-Lowe is the superintendent at the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center, which serves 16 school districts. In 2018, PBS interviewed her about why she believes teachers should be armed. She recently spoke with the USCCA and said her views haven’t changed. “I still highly believe in arming staff,” she said, “especially in rural areas where access to law enforcement is limited.”
It takes law enforcement anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to respond to an emergency. The FBI reported that 69 percent of active threat events end in five minutes or less, and 67 percent are over before officers arrive. For schools located in rural areas, it can take police up to 20 minutes or longer to respond to an active-shooter event. These are precious minutes we can’t afford to surrender.
Cons of Armed Teachers
Can any training really prepare a teacher to respond an active-shooter threat? Will they able be to suddenly spring into action when necessary? Some say no. They argue that role should be left to the trained professionals.
As well, inserting another armed individual into the picture could add more chaos to an already chaotic situation. For instance, law enforcement could misidentify the teacher as the threat, which could delay their response time to the actual threat.
John Moffatt, a retired Montana principle shot by a student, is one teacher opposed to arming his colleagues. “Imagine what would happen if you introduced into that scene somebody on staff carrying a weapon and running adrenaline-charged into that,” he stated. “It’s almost impossible for me to imagine that it wouldn’t have been worse.”
Arming teachers is also a liability insurance nightmare for schools. Insurance policies and coverage can be costly for school districts with armed teachers, assuming that coverage is even available. For instance, Kansas allows school staff members to carry guns in the classroom when specifically authorized in writing by the superintendent of any unified school district or the chief administrator of any accredited nonpublic school. EMC Insurance Companies, which covers most Kansas school districts, denied coverage to armed staff a few years ago.
“There’s not a lot of carriers that want to insure that risk,” Nate Walker, a senior vice president of sales at Amwins Group, said.
Negligent discharge incidents, such as when a sixth-grade Utah teacher mistakenly shot a school toilet when she recklessly placed it on top of the toilet paper dispenser, only support this sentiment.
A Solution? Top-Notch Training
The biggest concern for opponents of arming teachers is training. The last thing a parent wants is a person with mediocre training carrying a gun around their child. Only with advanced training will a teacher know how to appropriately respond to an active-shooter incident. Accidental discharges or other reckless behavior wouldn’t occur. The good news is that there is an organization dedicated to providing teachers and other school staff members with premiere training.
The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 prompted Grant Gallagher and Klint Macro to establish National Train a Teacher Day (NTATD). The organization dedicates a day annually to educating and empowering teachers and other staff members by offering awareness, medical, unarmed and deterrence training, and firearms instruction. Educators from across the country offer their skills for free to train these teachers and staff members. You can view a list of the instructors by state here.
While the training takes place over a single day, firearms training should never be static. Skills are perishable. Therefore, responsibly armed Americans, especially armed teachers who are expected to act as first responders, must continually work to educate themselves and refresh their skills in order to retain what they learn.
Guns Shouldn’t Be in Schools
“[G]uns have no place in schools — in a perfect world, yes,” Ohio superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe stated. “But the reality is that, in today’s society, guns have been brought into school many, many times and caused very much death and injury to many children and staff members.”
It’s a legitimate question if a teacher, let alone anyone, can ever be prepared to respond to an active-shooter threat. The truth is, there is no way to know for sure. Only habits formed through practice and repetition ensure someone will be prepared to respond appropriately. Fortunately, there is quality training out there for teachers and staff.
Not every teacher or staff member wants to be armed, and not all of them should be. Only those who are willing to be, undergo rigorous training, continue to review what they learned and understand the responsibility associated with carrying a gun should be permitted to be armed in schools.