The Facts on Arming Teachers
Earlier in the month, both Florida and Texas passed legislation to allow for a greater number of teachers to be armed. Florida and Texas both experienced school shootings last year (Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and Santa Fe High School in Texas), leading to debates in both states over whether or not arming teachers could prevent such tragedies.
While there previously has been debate over armed school security, arming teachers aims to solve some imperfections with armed security more broadly. As we learned from the Stoneman Douglas shooting, it is possible that security will be negligent of their duties in a time of crisis. And at Santa Fe there was armed security – so the shooter simply began his massacre in a part of the school where the easily identifiable security guards were not present. The debate over arming teachers is different because no student would know which teachers are armed, and thus no potential shooter would know which areas of the school to avoid – or know which armed officers to target first.
And to clear up some semantics, the “arming teachers” debate isn’t literally about “arming teachers.” An “arming teachers” policy would only affect teachers who have experience with firearms (and a concealed carry permit) that allows them to concealed carry their weapons practically everywhere – except their place of employment, where they spent the majority of their waking hours.
While often characterized as as “insane” idea from the Left, there are already 20 states that allow teachers and other school staff to concealed carry on school grounds. In Ohio alone there are over 200 school districts that allow teachers to carry guns (where an estimated 10-12% carry). In Texas 30% of school districts (315) already allowed for armed teachers before this recent legislation.
If arming teachers were a crazy idea, certainly there would be mountains of evidence of it going awry, wouldn’t there? The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) studied school districts that allow for armed teachers and staff from 2000-2018, and the consequences have yet to be seen.
Reviewing the Evidence
The objections to arming teachers are relatively straightforward, with the alleged potential consequences including teachers becoming more aggressive with students, students attempting to steal a teacher’s gun, or teachers accidentally shooting innocent bystanders in the event they do need to discharge their weapon (as if being unarmed is preferable in that scenario).
Another talking point I commonly hear is that we don’t pay teachers enough to be armed. Do these people think all concealed carry permit holders should be financially compensated? I doubt it.
Luckily these objections are bunk, as a review of the evidence from the CPRC has found. Among all schools from 2000-2018 there were 306 gunshots on school property, with 188 involving a death or injury, and 48 being suicides. Firearm related deaths are rising at schools, but of course that needs to be put in the national context that one is 800 times more likely to be killed by a gunshot wound outside of a school than inside one.
Regardless, there is one category of schools that have zero deaths from firearms when school was in session – and it’s those schools who allow teachers to carry.
But what of unintended consequences, such as a teacher accidentally discharging a weapon, or having one stolen? According to the CPRC:
Only one accidental discharge by a permit holder on K-12 property occurred. It occurred in Utah in November 2014 and resulted in only a very minor injury. A teacher discharged her gun in a faculty bathroom after school hours, and she was slightly injured when fragments from the toilet struck her. A few other accidents have occurred during firearm training classes held outside of school hours. There has never been a case of a student getting a hold of a teacher’s or school staffer’s gun.
Nor has there been any increase in the cost of insurance for schools who allow armed teachers, which Everytown for Gun Safety has cited as an argument against the policy.
One legitimate counter argument to the CRPC study could be that it suffers from a relatively small sample size in the context of all public schools, and because school shootings are extremely rare events, it could simply be by chance that schools that allow armed teachers haven’t seen any shootings. After all, the overwhelming majority of America’s nearly 100,000 public schools have never seen a school shooting, and there are entire states that haven’t had one in their history.
That may be true – but given that we know from the thousands of districts that already do allow armed teachers they can do so without any issue, even if they aren’t acting as a deterrent, there is no reason to disarm them.
As John Lott has discovered; since 1950, all but seven mass public shootings in America have occurred in so-called “gun free zones.” In that light, it probably is no coincidence that we haven’t seen any mass shootings in schools that are not gun free zones.