Is Arming Our Teachers the Answer? Teachers Weigh in from Both Sides of the Fence

By CTD Suzanne published on in Safety and Training

My best friend works as an 8th grade English teacher in one of the worst middle schools in her district. The total crime risk for the zip code where the school is located is twice the national average. For approximately 800 kids, the school employs one unarmed police officer.

On the other hand, in Littleton, Colo., Columbine High School with a student population over 1,000 has an armed guard on duty. In the affluent Littleton community, the overall crime rate is less than the national average.

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, open fired on students and teachers during lunch. They killed 13 people and injured 24 more before committing suicide.

Columbine High School, at the time, employed armed security officer, Neil Gardner. Gardner was on his lunch break at the time Harris and Klebold entered the school. At 11:22 a.m., Gardner received the call he was needed to return to the school. He never entered the school, but exchanged gunfire with Harris. Gardner called for support. Finally, at 12:06 p.m., almost an hour after Harris’ and Klebold’s first pipe bomb exploded, SWAT officers entered the school.

What if teachers could carry their guns with them?

What if teachers could carry their guns with them?

What if teachers at Columbine could have carried guns? While we will never know if an armed teacher would have minimized the number of lives taken at Columbine or Newtown, Conn., we do know that gun-free zones do not work.

The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 federally mandated a gun ban within a 1,000 feet radius of any school property line. Economist and author John R. Lott, Jr. Ph.D found in his research for the book “More Guns Less Crime,” that school shootings increased after the law went into affect. In the same study, Lott found mass shootings are more likely to occur in so-called gun-free zones. “With just one single exception, the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

James Holmes, who shot and killed 12 people in a Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, Colo. had a choice of seven movie theaters close to his apartment. He chose the only one that posted a sign banning guns on its premise.

In 1997, 16-year old Luke Woodham walked into his high school in Pearl Miss. and started shooting. He killed two students and injured seven others. Assistant Principle, Joel Myrick retrieved a gun from his car and was able to stop Luke from hurting anyone else.

I asked teachers from around the country and one in Canada if they believed teachers who hold conceal carry permits should be allowed to carry guns in the classroom. Of the teachers I interviewed who are against letting permitted teachers carry at school, the primary concern referenced the students’ ability to access the teacher’s gun. One Texas teacher, a gun owner said, “All it would take is one very strong student to overpower a teacher with a weapon to cause danger.”

The teachers that responded who do not believe arming teachers is the answer all have armed security officers at the school. However, the teachers who are for allowing concealed carry permit holders carry at school do not have armed officers. “There’s no way to defend ourselves against anything if we don’t carry. We’re at the mercy of the intruder. I’d rather be able to fire back.”

An elementary school teacher, who is not a gun owner and without an armed guard on campus believes that at least one teacher should be armed and trained. She said, “I’d feel safer knowing one of our campus team was armed.” Two teachers responded they were on the fence about the issue, but both agreed they would feel comfortable with a principal who packed. Another educator with over 30 years experience believes an armed security force and armed staff would be appropriate. He cited that school shootings happen because “crazy people… won’t meet significant resistance.”

Gun-free zones do

Gun-free zones do not work.

All teachers who felt a specifically-trained armed security force would be sufficient, also thought schools need stricter measures put in place to control entry to a school building. A 31-year veteran of our country’s education system said, “I think schools can be safer by having the building equipped with cameras everywhere and someone viewing them at all times—visitors enter through the office door only!”

She makes a good point. I have entered one of my friend’s schools, walked into the office, wrote my name down on a sign-in sheet, did not show ID and walked straight down to her classroom. The Canadian teacher said, “No one should be allowed to enter the school without police screening.”

Not one of the teachers I spoke with believed a complete gun ban is the answer.

What do you think? Do you believe teachers and administrators with permits should be able to carry a gun into a school? Discuss your thoughts in the comment section.

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Comments (20)

  • Gevens

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    Too many people don’t think this through. Preventing access is the start, but more important is being able to delay access until armed security arrives on the scene. Factors that need to be considered are how big the building is and how quickly the “good guy” can get to any point within that building that an armed “bad guy” might get to. If it takes longer than about 30 seconds, there is going to be an unacceptable body count if a “bad guy” does manage to get into the building and starts shooting. The problem gets worse if the school is composed of a series of different buildings on a campus.

    If you use a single armed security guard, there is always a chance that they could get taken out by the “bad guy” at the very start of the incident. Thus having multiple people armed that can respond is important. But, using dedicated security guards gets expensive and most school systems won’t be able to afford more than one or two. Thus allowing properly trained faculty and staff to be armed is also important.

    Some are concerned about teachers in the classroom having guns because it might frighten their students. They forget that the purpose of concealed carry is to keep the gun hidden from view from everyone but the person that is carrying that gun. I would not advocate female teachers keeping a gun in their purse–it needs to be physically on their person or locked in a secure container that is inaccessible to unauthorized people–i.e. students. There are small gun safes that can easily be bolted to the underside of a teacher’s desk in the classroom and that also provide very quick access to the gun when needed.

    Having someone monitor a bank of security camera to observe doors sounds good but as several studies have shown involving this arrangement at airports, the people watching the monitors tend to “zone out” after just a few minutes of doing it and they simply don’t see what is going on. Watching security monitors is an extremely boring job.

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  • F. S. Kolodziej

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    Guns shouldn’t be issued to teachers, but we should allow concealed carry in schools. Why the hell not? It’ll save lives.

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  • Joe

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    I want to compliment the writer on the article. It is both insightful as well as timely. I believe that teachers should have the opportunity to be armed to defend their students and themselves if a horrific event should occur such as Newtown or Columbine. If given the opportunity there must be guidelines in each school outlining what is expected of the teacher 1) Keep their students safe and follow protocol established with local law enforcement and school administrators 2)Neutralize the threat if threat if given the opportunity.
    There must be a plan of action, a way to identify teachers that are carrying lawfully concerned with PROTECTING the unarmed. Communication is important to coordinate for the safety of the teachers and students.
    I agree that if it is known that there are armed teachers in the school without knowing their identity it would dissuade most from taking the CHANCE of being killed before wreaking mayhem. Making all schools gun free zones makes all schools soft targets for those that are bent on taking innocent lives.
    Outlawing guns is not the answer and having the schools gun free invites mass shootings such as occurred at Newtown.

    Reply

  • EDH

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    After the recent tragic shooting in Connecticut I and other officers in my department met with local teachers and students. After speaking with them I believe there are a few teachers and staff who can handle the responsibility of being a protector as well as a teacher. If this was to come about then the teacher should be a volunteer, not assigned, and should receive certifications similar to armed security in Use of Force. When it comes right down to it whether these criminals are mentally ill or not they will look for a soft target. If armed security is a deterent that will keep children safer then the school districts are wrong for not having it in place already.

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  • Frank

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    I can understand why teachers would choose not to be armed. I think the point is: Gun free zones don’t work and they only insure that any nut job wanting to do harm knows they will be unopposed. So, if gun free zones can be eliminated and teachers are permitted, then any teacher who desires to should be able to carry a firearm. With more and more ex-military entering the work force at all levels, there are many teachers who have the training and / or have carry permits already. So what’s the problem? People are scared of guns. That’s it in a nutshell.

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  • Kris D

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    Excellent points… Look forward to seeing outcome/changes that will be made from these tragic events.

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  • Kris

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    Damn good article! All good points!

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  • kanmac

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    If teachers are armed we don’t know if they would take action with a firearm if an incident happened in their school but if they aren’t armed we know they don’t have that option.

    Proper training would be essential. Yet no one knows when the time comes how a teacher will react, just like we don’t know how a security guard, police officer, soldier, etc. will react when it comes to that critical moment.

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  • Oakspar77777

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    (1) It is the teacher’s constitutional right to bear arms for self defense. So ruled the SCOTUS. If teachers are stripped of the right to self defense and are not given a defense of equal value to their own normal CCW, how is this not a massive liability to the unconstitutional authority doing so?

    (2) “Trained” is not exclusive to the military or law enforcement. In fact, many in those professions are woefully trained – many in non-combat roles seldom even hold weapons and most LEO qualification requirements are embarrassingly low. Go ask your local law enforcement officer how he feels about any officer who considers only their required training to be sufficient. He won’t be complimentary.

    (3) Teachers are trusted to watch our children and many at Sandy Hook defended their students from bullets with their own bodies, and yet people here question whether teachers can be trusted with guns? If a teacher is so irresponsible, they ought not be a teacher. Furthermore, we trust our citizens with CCWs to be out and about with their gun. They are almost universally responsible (the crime rates of people with CCWs is so vastly superior to the population as a whole that having a CCW should be a requirement to work with children!). Why would a responsible CCW carrier suddenly become irresponsible simply by being a teacher on campus.

    (4) Teachers do not want to carry to protect themselves from their students, but to protect their students from outside threats. I have taught in public high schools for a decade. Three of my students have gone on to kill or assist in killing another human being. I have had students threaten me. I have never been afraid of my students (and many of my seniors are larger than I am). A student who charges a teacher (particularly a female teacher) is likely to be laid out by the other students in short order in even the roughest of schools.

    (5) Most teachers would not carry. That is okay. No one thinks teachers should be issued guns. The simple possibility of armed resistance, however, is often enough to stop these mass shooting cowards (who often surrender or commit suicide at the first hint of real resistance). If in each school even two or three teachers carried, our schools would be hundreds of times more secure than if a lone SRO was left to defend the entire campus (and SROs are most common in high schools, most elementary schools do not even have one officer on campus).

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  • Roger

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    Answer: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The right for teachers and school officials to carry concealed is not the answer, but it is an answer.

    The much, much more encompassing answer is to investigate the truth of what really happens at every one of these mass shootings and get every question answered. All the shootings I am aware of involved either people involved in mind control programs, or young people on psychotropic drugs. Many were also heavily into hours a day of playing shooter video games to a point of desensitizing themselves.

    Political assassinations and mass murder shootings frequently have more than one shooter, but the facts are spun in the media. It is obvious to many this is just a false flag ploy to confiscate guns. That will not fix the problem. Get to the bottom of each incident and the solution will be obvious. Then and only then will we be able to fix our society.

    Reply

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