Issue Report: Arming Teachers

Can arming teachers in schools be justified?

The idea of arming teachers in schools has become a matter of serious policy debate in the era of mass school shootings. It gained particular traction in 2018 when President Trump advocated for the arming of school teachers in the wake of a number of school shootings, particularly the Majory Stoneman Douglas shooting. The debate centers around a number of key issues, including whether armed teachers can more effectively and rapidly respond to a mass shooting at a school, whether armed teachers will deter mass shooters, and whether the risks of guns in the classroom are high, including the risk that a gun will be discovered by a student, used without warrant by a teacher on a student, or misused during a mass shooting or other incident. Other issues include whether arming teachers wrongfully militarizes schools, creates a cloud of fear among students, or whether it makes students and parents feel more comfortable. In addition, some believe that the issue should be left to localities to figure out, and proponents of this approach argue that different localities, such as rural parts of Texas, have greater comfort with the idea of guns in society as a means of responsible self protection, whereas other localities in say urban New York do not have as great of comfort with guns as such. These and other issues and arguments are framed below.

Deterrent: Will arming teachers deter shooters and violence?

Arming teachers will deter shooters

President Trump said in 2018 that as a result of arming teachers, “Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States”. He has said in other Tweets: “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will never attack that school. Cowards won’t go there. Problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work.” He also tweeted: “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police and first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT.”

Arming teachers will increase incidents of gun violence

German Lopez, "The case against arming teachers," Vox, March 20, 2018

“based on the evidence we do have, there’s enough to suggest that putting more guns in schools could actually make gun violence worse. The fundamental problem in the US is there are so many guns already in circulation. This makes it easier for any conflict to quickly escalate into a form of gun violence — and, as a result, the US has more shootings than its developed peers. So if more guns are added into circulation, it would very likely lead to more gun violence. That’s not to say that no one has ever successfully defended themselves or others from an attack with a firearm… The question is whether these incidents of successful defense would outweigh the new incidents of gun violence that would crop up due to the addition of more firearms in schools. Based on the research, the presence of more guns typically translates to much more general gun violence, while justified uses of a gun for self-defense are few and far between. That suggests that arming more people in schools would do more harm than good — making the latest proposal put forward by Trump and other lawmakers potentially very dangerous.”

Guns are far more often used in murders than in self-defense

German Lopez, "The case against arming teachers," Vox, March 20, 2018

“It’s way more likely in America that someone will shoot and kill another person in the course of committing a crime than will do so in self-defense. Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post ran through the statistics. He looked at how many gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings there were in comparison to ‘justifiable’ homicides (‘the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen’), based on the FBI’s 2012 data. His findings: For every justifiable gun homicide, there were 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths.”

Giving teachers guns increases chances of abuse of students

"Why arming classroom teachers is a bad ideas," Atlantic, February 22, 2018

“the movement for hardening isn’t just impractical or lacking in evidentiary support; it’s also a dystopian stroke of authoritarianism that runs deeply counter to the ideas embodied in the Constitution. Increasingly militarized school resource officers don’t just passively wait for mass shootings; they have daily encounters with students that appear to be increasing in frequency. Brutality is endemic. Mother Jones chronicled 28 serious student injuries and one death from 2010 to 2015 in such encounters. The brunt of those brutal incidents and arrests falls on black students, and high-profile incidents of officers kicking students, choking them, handcuffing third-graders, and slamming students to the ground are all too common. While most teachers are fiercely dedicated to their students, steady reports of abuse from some teachers, as well as reports of racial slurs and racial bias, should be strong reasons to be skeptical of arming teachers. Especially in the often-fraught environments of under-resourced classrooms, it’s probably not a good idea to have anybody with a gun present.”

Efficacy: Would armed teachers be most effective, rapid response during shooting?

Arming teachers allows more rapid response than police

President Trump said in February of 2018: “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

Arming teachers is most practical way to address threat

Kevin Dyes, the superintendent of the Holliday school district in Texas, which allows the arming of teachers, said in 2018: “There’s a lot of people with a lot of guns out there and there are a lot of people out there who are unstable. We don’t believe everybody ought to be toting guns or anything, but let’s be practical. If somebody harbors ill will and comes on our campus, how are we going to stop that person?”

Armed civilians are rarely effective against mass shooters

German Lopez, "The case against arming teachers," Vox, March 20, 2018

“Data on mass shootings tells a similar story: According to the FBI’s report on active shooter events between 2000 and 2013, only about 3 percent were stopped by a civilian with a gun. Unarmed civilians actually stopped more incidents — about 13 percent. Most of the incidents — more than 56 percent — ended on the shooter’s initiative, when the shooter either killed himself or herself, simply stopped shooting, or fled the scene.”

Stopping a mass shooter is hard, even with firearms training

German Lopez, "The case against arming teachers," Vox, March 20, 2018

“Even when people are armed, that doesn’t mean they can properly respond to a mass shooting. Multiple simulations have demonstrated that most people, if placed in an active shooter situation while armed, will not be able to stop the situation, and may in fact do little more than get themselves killed in the process. [A] video from ABC News shows one such simulation, in which people repeatedly fail to shoot an active shooter before they’re shot. As Chris Benton, a police investigator in Pennsylvania, told ABC News, ‘Video games and movies, they glorify gunfights. [People] get that warped sense that this is true — this video game is exactly what I can do in real life. That’s not reality.'”

Arming teachers can help reduce lethality of mass shootings

Dennis Prager, "Why the left opposes arming teachers," National Review, February 27, 2018

“Of course, no murder is ‘good news.’ But to most of us, one or three or five as compared with 17 murdered is good news. Only those who think it isn’t good news think permitting some teachers and other school staff to be armed is a bad idea.”

Accident risks: Can the risk of gun accidents in schools be mitigated?

Loaded gun in a classroom will inevitably result in an accident

Eugene Robinson, "Don't let the absurd ploy to arm teachers distract you," Washington Post, February 26, 2018

“Picture one of your grade school or high school classrooms. Ima­gine a loaded gun in there somewhere. Even on an average day, without an active shooter stalking the halls, the question is not what could go wrong. It is how many dead or wounded.”

Logic of arming teachers leads to arming of waiters, clerks, etc.

"We need more officers, but not armed teachers after Parkland," Floriday Today Editorial, March 2, 2018

“If we follow the Legislature’s reasoning, next time a shooting happens at a mall we’ll ask store clerks to pack heat; if it happens at a restaurant we’ll ask waiters to defend us.”

Classroom guns will have to be made accessible to be effective, creating risks

Russ Moore, "No, teachers should not be armed," EdWeek, October 28, 2014

“This approach would require us to be placing guns in schools now—guns that could easily be used inappropriately. Don’t for a minute think that a secured gun, stored in a school, would be inaccessible. For a gun to be available for defense, it needs to be accessible. That means it would be accessible to more than just the principal or teacher. This will become an even greater concern should more states pass gun laws that allow people with valid pistol permits to also carry them in schools.”

Feeling safe: Will arming teachers make students feel safer?

Arming teachers makes many students feel safer

A Callisburg, Texas high school student said in March 2018: “I feel really safe, knowing that, I can come to school and if there’s an incident that does happen that they’ll be able to protect us.”

Arming teachers creates uncomfortable environment

Robin Basalla, a New York City public school teacher with 12 years of experience, said to Quartz in 2018: “No way teachers should be carrying guns. Is this really something that needs to be explained? We need more counselors, more support to work directly with students, more resources to educate. Kids need to feel comfortable and happy in school. Walking through a metal detector between two armed guards does not say ‘Welcome, we are here for you.’ It says, ‘We don’t trust you.’ Is that really the first message students should be receiving each day as they walk into school?”

Vs. alternatives: Is arming teachers the best option among the alternatives?

Arming teachers is just a distraction from gun control

Eugene Robinson, "Don't let the absurd ploy to arm teachers distract you," Washington Post, February 26, 2018

“The deliberately outrageous idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing more than a distraction, a ploy by the gun lobby to buy time for passions to cool. Don’t get sidetracked. Keep the focus where it belongs — on keeping military-style assault rifles out of civilian hands.”

Hiring security officers is better alternative to arming teachers

"We need more officers, but not armed teachers after Parkland," Floriday Today Editorial, March 2, 2018

“We’d rather use the $67 million — and more if necessary — to hire even more authentic law enforcement professionals on campuses and make it harder for people to enter with a gun. We’d rather see metal detectors, walls and bullet-proof glass separating visitors and a receptionist at each school. Hire real officers instead of asking education professionals to double as extra security; certainly there are veterans and others who can fit the bill. Ask yourself who offers more protection for our children, a teacher with a gun and 132 hours of training or a professional officer for whom protecting and serving is a lifetime commitment.”

Fairness to teachers: Is arming teachers fair to teachers?

It is unfair to saddle overstretched teachers with burden of arms

"We need more officers, but not armed teachers after Parkland," Floriday Today Editorial, March 2, 2018

“Teachers and school staff are already tasked with so much: preparing students for standardized tests, disciplining them and preparing them to enter adulthood. Now those who volunteer under the program would carry the responsibility to save lives and be the first line of defense against a deranged person seeking carnage — often with a semi-automatic rifle such as an AR-15.”

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