Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with shootings at schools all the way from Columbine to the most recent in Sparks, Nevada. So it comes as no surprise that so many people around the country are scrambling to find a solution that will save the lives of our innocent children. One such solution that has been proposed in several different states is to arm the teachers and school employees. This, however, is not an entirely new idea. Since 2008, in response to the Virginia Tech shooting, school staff members have been allowed access to guns in Harrold, TX, as well as in 13 school districts in Arkansas. Utah has allowed teachers to carry concealed handguns if they pass a background check and undergo training since 2000. Hawaii doesn’t regulate guns in schools, and New Hampshire only bans students from having firearms on school grounds.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this year, legislators in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas passed laws authorizing at least one school employee to carry a firearm on campus. In Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Nevada, teachers can carry a gun on campus with written permission from school officials.
ClarksvilleSchool District was the first school in Arkansas to arm selected teachers with handguns this school year. ArkansasChristianAcademy has not armed its teachers, but Pastor Perry Black said that someone is armed on teach part of the school property. He has said, “…Sometimes the solution to guns is a gun. It’s sad, but it’s a reality.” He says they pray for the best, but plan for the worst. They have taken down the “Gun-free Zone” signs, and instead put up a sign that says “Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force”.
NewcomerstownExemptedVillageSchool District in Ohio also began allowing authorized staff to carry guns on school property this school year. Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced several bills proposing teachers and school staff be armed as long as they pass background checks, have ongoing mental health evaluations, and firearms training, but that is still in limbo.
Brenham, TX whose Superintendent Sam Bell stated “It speaks for society that we even have to discuss this and talk about it in today’s society, but we do”, is another such place. They propose that teachers with a concealed handgun permit be allowed to volunteer anonymously for law enforcement training that would qualify them to keep a gun in a safe on school grounds. And actually, Texas passed the Protection of Texas Children Act which went into effect on September 1st, requiring teachers who want to serve as armed school marshals to have a concealed carry permit, pass a mental health evaluation, and be trained to respond to a shooter.
In October, the St. Helens School District School Board lifted a ban on teachers and staff carrying firearms on school grounds, allowing those staff members with concealed carry permits to carry anywhere at school. When asked, the Chief of Police, Terry Moss, said “Some people in law enforcement worry if some teacher has a gun that they would cause confusion in an active shooter situation. They worry police wouldn’t know who the shooter was. But on the other side, time is of the essence. So, some think ‘what if there was a trained person who could take action?’ I think about the teacher in Reno who was shot last week. What if he had had a gun?”
In Briggsdale, Colorado, a rural school located about 20 minutes from the nearest police station has decided to allow teachers who take training to carry a handgun in school. Staff members who sign up to carry in school must maintain a concealed carry permit, participate in a refresher training course twice a year, prove that they have shot 100 rounds at a certified range every month, and undergo medical training.
Here in Virginia, Forest District Supervisor John Sharp has proposed allowing teachers and school staff to carry concealed firearms. Bedford County Sherriff said that if the General Assembly sees sit to let teachers carry guns he would want the teachers to be trained to the same standards as law enforcement officers.
Of course, as with anything else, there are parents and staff both in favor and against this proposed solution. One parent said “I would like to think that they’re safe here, but you watch the news and you know that they’re not, that it can happen anywhere. I would rather them be armed and protected and be able to protect themselves and our children.”