As school districts nationwide grapple with the Sandy Hook tragedy, some are considering the option of arming teachers and other school employees to protect students.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut shook the country, leaving many asking how an individual could get into a “safe” school and open fire on young children and adults alike. As the aftermath of the shootings continues to rattle educators, students and parents, lawmakers are taking a look at what they can do to prevent such tragedies in the future. For some states and school districts, one option on the table has been to allow more, not fewer, guns in the communities and within the schools themselves. However, suggestions of arming schools staff have been met with significant concern and more than a few protests from parents and the teachers themselves.
Missouri Lawmakers Consider Arming School Staff
Missouri is one of the states considering legislation that would allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed firearms in schools. The Joplin Globe reports that State Representative Mike Kelly (R-Lamar) has begun the process to file a bill that would allow for the practice if the teachers and administrators had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Kelly is not alone in his efforts – thus far, 24 other state lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill. Kelly told the Globe that if the bill passes, he would try to add an amendment that would require concealed firearms to be kept on the teacher or administrator at all times throughout the school day.
Another Missouri lawmaker, State Representative Bill White (R-Joplin) is considering a bill that would allow school staff members to go through appropriate training classes that would authorize them to carry weapons as “deputy” law enforcement officials. White believes this sort of policy would be a better fit for school administrators, rather than teachers in the classroom.
“My preference would be for armed police officers in every school, but there isn’t the budget for that,” White told the Joplin Globe. “I would hope that the school district could offer a financial incentive for workers who get the extra training.”
Gun Training Offered to Utah Teachers
The Utah Shooting Sports Council is gearing up for a large influx of public school teachers for its next gun training session, according to Yahoo News. The organization said it usually signs up a dozen teachers each year for gun training, but this year, more than 200 teachers are expected to attend. In addition to concern over the Connecticut shootings, the exponential growth in attendance has been attributed to the waiving of the normal fees for the session, which will be extended to public school teachers.
Currently, Utah is one of the only states in the country that allows licensed gun holders to carry concealed weapons into all public places, including schools. However, Utah educators, who told Yahoo News they have no way of knowing how many guns are in public schools today, would ban guns in schools if they could. State law in Utah forbids schools, districts or colleges from overriding the state law.
“It’s a terrible idea,” Carol Lear, one of the chief lawyers for the Utah Office of Education, told Yahoo News. “It’s a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea.” Lear explained that a teacher carrying a gun could be overpowered or a gun could accidently misfire and injure a student or staff member.
Colorado to Look at Gun Legislation
Long before the Connecticut tragedy, Colorado lawmakers set their sights on gun legislation for 2013. Under consideration currently is extending a citizen’s rights to carry a firearm in the state. State legislators are taking another look at laws that would allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons in more public places, including schools. Lawmakers are also considering allowing businesses to use deadly force against intruders, Think Progress reports. The proposal involving both of these possible laws is currently circulating in both the House and Senate for the state.
Texas Lawmakers Struggle with Gun Questions
Even Texas, a traditionally pro-gun state, is struggling with the idea of allowing firearms in elementary schools. The Kansas City Star reports that while the Dallas school district already employs its own armed police force, other schools in the state are left without armed protection during the school day. And while officers are a common sight a secondary schools in Dallas, the idea of introducing cops to elementary schools does not set well with many lawmakers and educators in the state.
In addition to opposition to the general idea of adding armed guards at elementary schools – an idea the state has balked against until now – there is the issue of cost. Estimates for adding armed guards at all schools in the state would easily reach millions - amounts few school districts are prepared to shell out in such cash-strapped times. In addition, some educators believe any extra money that could be collected for security would be better spent on threat assessment and mental health support for students and staff.
One small school in Texas already allows teachers to bring guns to school. Yahoo News reported in 2011 that in Harrold, Texas, parents, teachers and students don’t think much about who might be carrying a gun in the K-12 school housing just over 100 students. The school board voted unanimously to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons to school in 2007. Officials for the school will not say how many guns are carried to school each day, citing a security breach if such information is disclosed.
As mass shootings have shaken the very core of this country from coast to coast, prevention of future attacks is at the forefront of many conversations today. However, the path to prevention is one that is loaded with controversy, which is sure to delay any type of action in many areas of the country.