Risky Idea Alert: Arming Teachers in School

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In an era when it seems like there’s constantly a story about a shooting on school grounds, we’re always looking for solutions to our school shooting epidemic. One long-discussed argument has been to arm teachers, and people across the country are taking action to do just that.

In many conservative-leaning states, the push to arm teachers is getting pretty serious. As of this year, in 28 different states, adults who own guns will be allowed to carry them into school buildings under certain parameters. Recently, legislation was passed in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas related to arming teachers and staff members in public schools.

There’s also been some expansion of the way in which those who are armed in schools are trained. In some places, free classes are offered for staff members who want to carry guns into schools in an attempt to protect students. The Centennial Gun Club in Colorado is offering free classes to teachers who want to learn how to carry and operate guns. A former Colorado teacher named Tara who is thinking of returning to the classroom named explained her interest in the class, saying:

While I am a teacher, those kids, those students in my class are my kids, and my first responsibility is to protect them at all costs. When all the school shootings happened I realized that I wanted it more for my own personal protection and I thought that that idea of being prepared to protect translates very well to the classroom for teachers.

That’s all well and good, but what they don’t seem to be offering is classes that particularly relate to stopping armed intruders or using a gun under high-pressure circumstances.

In other places, the emphasis is on cutting the response time in case of an armed intruder by training designated staff members who have access to weapons. In some cases, teachers need to disclose information to superiors that they’re bringing a gun into the classroom, in other states the legislation doesn’t require that kind of step. While the laws are varied, one thing is pretty clear — bringing more guns into schools in an attempt to stop horrific tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting has become a fairly popular mindset, without any whiff of consistency from state to state or even school district to school district.

Now, I’m very split here. On one hand I’m frustrated. Part me of thinks that we literally are so bad at finding solutions to our mass shooting problem that we’re just bringing more guns into schools as an answer. That is where we are. We so fundamentally can’t agree on how to deal with gun violence that we can’t even make the laws or required training consistent. Never mind the fact that arming people more to prevent shootings is a kind of miniature mutually assured destruction. Never mind that while shootings are occasionally stopped by bystanders, it’s relatively rare. Never mind that the ability to stop a shooting takes a blend of training, instinct, and temperament that requires way more than one class to learn. Never mind that in the last year, 100 children died in accidental shooting deaths in the United States. Never mind that by bringing guns into our classrooms, we are teaching our children that school is not a safe place, and that gun violence is a reasonable answer. That’s the obnoxious liberal in me talking.

But on the other hand, I have a side that I like to think is rational, and that side is also kind of frustrated. Now, I want to be clear, because I’ve learned from experience that this kind of disclaimer is needed: this is not an attack on the Second Amendment. This is an attack on the complete lack of common sense that we are now employing. If we sat down, as a nation, and truly determined that the best way to protect children is to arm their teachers, fine. We can do that, if we really think that will work. It’s a plan, at least, and as much as I don’t think it’s a good plan, I would be ecstatic to be proven wrong.

But what we have right now is such a fundamental disagreement on literally everything to do with this debate that we’re half-assing it. We’re passing laws that allow certain people to bring guns into schools under the guise of protection without necessarily creating corresponding legislation to make sure that the plan has the chance to be effective. We’re ignoring the possibly negative ramifications of these laws because it’s just easier that way. We are so far from being able to have a rational debate on this topic that any ability to be able to work together has been thrown out the window.

Every gun death is a tragedy, and the only way we’re going to be able to prevent situations like Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or UC-Santa Barbara from happening again is if we all grow up and talk about this in a rational way.

Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at

Featured image courtesy of [Wendy House via Flickr]

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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