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 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.”
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.