After the 1999 Columbine school shooting emergency plans were developed, but since more recent school shootings (such as that at Sandy Hook), lawmakers and school officials have been voicing concerns that these are not enough to protect the children from an active shooter. Because of this, even though a federal law prohibits carrying a firearm in a school zone, many states, communities, and school boards have passed exemptions giving certain permit holders permission to carry. Not only that, but several state legislatures and school districts in the country are moving to allow school staff to carry firearms on the school property to protect both students and teachers.
In Ohio, for example, the state’s General Assembly is reviewing legislation that could potentially affect how schools, day-care centers, and churches permit the use of guns for protection. Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association in Columbus, OH, who educates school boards on the issue of guns in schools, said “it’s not only a good idea, it’s a mandatory thing if you want the kids to be safe”.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven states passed legislation concerning permit holders carrying firearms on elementary and secondary school campuses in 2013. Not only that, but 33 states also introduced over 80 bills that dealt with teachers and administrators in K-12 being armed. These proposed laws would allow teachers who have a concealed carry permit to take their firearm onto school grounds, and authorize districts to create programs that designate certain trained “firearm carriers” on the school campus.
In Arkansas, lawmakers approved a measure that allows churches that have K-12 schools to permit people with a concealed handgun permit to carry on school property and in church facilities. In Oklahoma private schools can allow permit holders to carry on school grounds if they have received additional certification. A new law in Alabama gives authority to specific counties to form voluntary emergency security forces made up of current and retired school employees. In Kansas and Tennessee, school employees can carry on campus with written authorization from school officials and law enforcement.
Of course there are still people that oppose these decisions, saying that school is the safest place your children can be. However, as Irvine stated, “That being said, violence is the No. 1 cause of death for our kids in school. In fact, violence kills more of our children than every other cause of death combined in our schools….The firearm is the only thing that [can] reliably stop an active killer in a school. Nothing else works reliably. And if you reliably want your kids to come home – and I do mine – you’ve got to protect them…We have 150,000 schools in this country, and there is no possible way we can afford to hire armed people for all these schools…The only reason this is controversial is because some people assess this emotional value to a gun. It’s a tool. Some people use it for very bad things. If you want your children to be safe, you put someone in that school who is armed and able to respond quickly.”