Armed teachers can and should keep schools safe

Whether warranted or not, students and parents expect schools to be safe places. We trust teachers and administrators to protect as well as to educate. Sadly, this is an expectation that seems to be becoming increasingly unrealistic.

Those angling to tighten gun laws use tragedies like the most recent in Parkland, Florida as platforms to shout about the evils of guns. Conversely, gun advocates remind us that guns do not kill people, people kill people. I agree with the latter. But that sentiment, alone, will not stop another violent shooting.

As a student, I live and learn in a gun-free environment. Ironically, this concept is supposed to make me feel safe. Naively proclaiming a school a “gun-free zone” is tantamount to broadcasting that we are unarmed sitting ducks. I, for one, am hardly comforted by the label, and neither should you be.

Such a declaration assumes the bad guy will see the sign and move on. However, bad guys are labeled such because they do not follow the rules. Restricting qualified personnel from carrying guns in schools is a feel-good sentiment designed to promote the notion that our schools are safe havens, wrapped in and protected by love. But such foolishness may be having the opposite effect. The rise in the number of school shootings suggests that the very designation of “gun-free” may actually have made our schools targets.

In the wake of the horrific massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the usual suspects have all been out, regaling us with their politicking, none of which is designed to sincerely enact meaningful change, but rather to assuage supporters. This is just noise at a time when our nation needs answers.

The answers are not in more laws and regulations. The exact number of federal gun laws is said to be difficult to ascertain, but The Brookings Institute cites 300, while renowned economist John Lott has stated 271. State laws are estimated to be even more numerous and more difficult to tally. Part of the reason for such murkiness is because not everyone agrees with the “relevancy” of the laws. Many are wrought with loopholes – or ignored altogether – which renders them more or less useless.

Where I grew up in New Jersey, some schools have installed an armed police officer in the lobby. That does make people feel better. However, a single individual is probably not sufficient to stave off an attack with some planning and lots of ammunition.

One idea with merit is to permit teachers to carry concealed guns. I hear the objectors now: how could a teacher be persuaded to compromise their lofty academic principles? This may surprise some: it turns out that teachers, much like students and their families, are coming around to the realization that the gun-free system is failing.

In Ohio, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has offered to train any teachers in his county interested in acquiring concealed carrying permits. When initially proposed, he thought he might attract fifty participants. Within hours, however, 300 teachers had signed up. Classes start during the week of February 25.

It should be noted that permits alone do not automatically allow teachers to carry concealed guns to school. Any change in the rules governing such permission rests with the individual school boards.

Armed teachers, administrators and security personnel could prove a formidable defense against a perpetrator. As a student, I would appreciate knowing my school was protected by well-trained, levelheaded people who believe their job includes ensuring my safety and theirs. 

Some teachers and students in the Florida incident are now being hailed as heroes because they used themselves as shields for others. They demonstrated incredible bravery, and they are truly heroes. Hindsight is 20/20, and nothing is certain. However, I cannot help but ask: had these brave, determined individuals been trained and permitted their own weapons, might some aspect of that tragic day have turned out differently? 

The truth is, we will never know. What we do know – and must admit – is that gun-free zones are not working. Most of us agree that school shootings appear to be on the rise. We all agree that they are sickening tragedies. Perhaps we could agree that we should invite those on the front lines – the teachers and administrators – to choose whether they would like to train and be permitted to carry concealed guns into the classroom.

Samantha Fisher is a sophomore majoring in political science. Her column runs biweekly. 

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