by Tiffany Koppenaal
Often times, if you turn on your TV, grab a newspaper, or listen in on a radio station’s report, you hear about school shootings and massacres. The news is depressing, and it raises serious questions about safety in schools. Many suggest that arming teachers would help protect students; however, it is a terrible idea to change current laws for teachers to carry or conceal guns in schools. It could cause a hostile environment, and there may be a risk of possible psychological disorders in teachers. Arming a teacher who has a psychological disorder could make the teacher more of a threat than a protector. Moreover there is a possibility of guns being taken from schools and hurting others in public or at home. Solutions other than guns in schools will be more effective and present fewer risks.
Currently, there are eighteen states allowing guns in schools: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming (Johnson). These states would permit teachers to carry loaded guns in schools only if they have written permission.Proposed laws for guns in schools have been considered in states such as Kansas. For example, “The Kansas House is expected to pass a bill requiring the state, cities and counties to allow concealed weapons into their buildings unless they have security checkpoints at public entrances. Colleges could still ban guns for four years” (Cooper).
There are others who feel differently about concealing guns in schools. Let’s try to get some perspective on a hostile classroom environment. Imagine you are a student or a parent of a student whose teacher is concealing a gun under his jacket or has one locked in his desk. Would you feel comfortable knowing there is a gun in the room? Would you feel comfortable with your children being in a room with a gun at school? A gun in the room often makes things more tense and hostile.
Something to consider is the possibility of psychological problems in teachers. It is common for many people to have mental disorders due to genetic mutations or due to their environment. How people react to certain situations could mean life or death if a gun is involved. There is a limit to how much stress a teacher or anyone in general can take before they crack under the pressure. Some teachers are under so much pressure that many students, faculty, administrators and even parents don’t see it or fathom the amount of stress placed on a teacher’s shoulders.
Heres a scary thought: if guns were allowed in school, a student could somehow obtain the gun. Even teachers can be disarmed. If a student finds the gun and somehow manages to smuggle it home, it could cause a number of problems. What if the student plans to harm family members at home, an ex, a significant other, enemies, or random people in public? What if the student plans to return with the gun and ultimately causes what the school wanted to prevent?
Those in favor of teachers having guns should think about what would happen to the armed teacher if the police see them while searching for an active shooter. The automatic response from the police would be to shoot because they see the teacher is armed and could be the active shooter.
If hypothetically we were to go along with the idea that arming teachers would be a good idea, shouldn’t the teachers at least be trained and know the importance of gun training? Yes. Teachers need to be trained if they don’t know how to use a gun. If guns are to be allowed in schools, all of the teachers need to know how to use guns, because guns are in their environment now. Where would the school get the funding to train teachers? Spending on gun training would take funds away from other urgent priorities, such as maintaining school buildings and updating classroom technology.
A college student offered her own opinion on the issue of teachers concealing guns in class. She thought teachers shouldn’t be able to have guns because “there shouldn’t be any guns in school regardless of age or authority, unless there is an exception for your school to have police officers” (Jones). In regard to a teacher having a gun in class, she said if it were allowed, “[she] would have to be comfortable with the teacher having a gun because if the teacher wasn’t open enough in class to students, [she] would probably feel more nervous about it” (Jones). If she had kids she wouldn’t like having guns in school because “[she] wouldn’t be in the classroom with [her] kids and see the teacher’s behavior, or be able to protect [her kids] if the teacher for some reason pulled a gun out on them” (Jones).
A minister from Missouri believes differently. He said, “It is a good idea for teachers to have the choice of concealing guns in classrooms. It could protect innocent lives, and they wouldn’t have to wait fifteen minutes for the police to arrive. If we are really serious about the safety of children, the best way is to arm teachers. Studies have shown that when a community is armed, crime rate drops in states that have concealing permits” (Anonymous). I asked how he would feel about his two daughters being in a classroom with a gun and about being in an active shooter situation, and he answered, “I feel they would be much more safe and secure. The benefit of teachers keeping guns to protect students far outweighs the risk of possible shootings. Even if police officers thought the teacher was the active shooter, I would still agree with guns in school because they do that now at crime scenes. If there is the worry of a crazed teacher, they probably shouldn’t be teaching in the first place” (Anonymous). However, the ideas that the minister came up with may not be the best for any school environment.
My last interview was with Tony Coleman, Director of Security at Stephens College. Coleman said that he is on the fence regarding the issue and thinks that allowing guns in school would act as a deterrent (Coleman). He made it clear that “this [was] just [his] personal opinion.” He doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to arm teachers or faculty. He said, “After 9/11 they started arming pilots. What if you were to arm only two people and they were sick or gone and something happened?” Although he realizes “there’s not going to be many who would take on the responsibility. The ones who feel they can are most likely the ones you want to carry firearms.” He stated that “if someone wanted to ‘go off the deep end,’ it’s going to happen anyway. Many people everyday could have a weapon on them and no one would know about it.” He feels “the quicker we can neutralize the threat, the better off everyone is of course.” I asked him what his opinion was on how to better prevent school shootings and the only answer he gave me was that he thought background checks should be much tighter. He told me of his previous experience with a sheriff’s office and how it took him a week to get his gun. “My future son-in-law just paid $500 and filled out a federal form and had the gun” (Coleman). There is obviously something to be fixed regarding background checks. Tony believes that background checks should make people wait longer before they obtain a gun. I finished the interview with one last question. I asked if he would feel safe knowing his children were in an armed school, and he simply stated “yes” (Coleman). I found this interesting because this reiterates that parents are concerned about their children’s safety; some feel their children are safer with guns in school, and some feel they are safer without guns in school.
The recent and heartbreaking shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut occurred on December 14, 2012 when Adam Lanza came into the school and killed 20 people including himself, his mother, and 18 children from ages five to ten. An event like this shows us that we need better solutions than teachers being armed to prevent things like the shooting at Sandy Hook.
Even if some schools don’t have technology, in most high schools there is at least one police officer. Do we need teachers to have guns in the classroom if there is already a trained, reliable officer in the building? I would disagree still on the idea of teachers concealing guns in the classroom not only because there is a cop in the school but also because it would just complicate the situation if there were to be an active shooter situation. Some may point out that there are not enough (or any) police officers in some schools. It is possible to have more than one police officer to a school if it is absolutely needed for the community and for the school system to function properly.
Limiting the types of video games adolescents can purchase may be any solution; this may also be an effective way to decrease crime rates. There are many games that show high-definition graphics of random people as well as police officers being shot and people breaking into buildings, committing arson, and stealing cars. In some households video games that are rated “T” for teen or “M” for mature are being played by children who think it is okay to do these acts in real life.
A possible solution could be for schools to watch out for odd behaviors in students. School staff and students should be alert to actions and behaviors such as fighting, bullying or being bullied, making a hit list, avoiding social activities, or displaying depression and anger. Reporting these incidents should be anonymous, so the reporter doesn’t feel endangered. The initial point of receiving referred counseling is to avoid the process that leads to a shooting or massacre.
Some schools already use code names for drills, but schools could be more creative with them instead of saying “code red, yellow, blue or green.” An example could be the school’s mascot. I think that metal dectectors would be useful in schools because it could limit weapons being brought and keep students safe. Arguments against this would be invasion of privacy, but it would be no different from an airport checking for weapons.
Keeping up with building security during rush hours in the morning and afternoons could help prevent shootings. In the morning, students rush into the doors and could easily bring a firearm into the school unnoticed. In the afternoon when students gather around to say good-bye to friends or leave school in a hurry, security should make sure students get out of school safely and lock the doors once all students are out of the building. Schools could set a specific time to open doors in the morning and lock doors in the evening. During the day all the doors in the school could be locked while security walks the perimeter of the school to let in students or visitors. There are many options schools can take to be secure, even if it may require more effort from the staff.
There are other solutions that may affect the schools, such as the current gun control laws being considered on national, state and local levels. For instance, “Four St. Louis democrats filed a bill to ban assault-style weapons and large ammunition magazines. Their bill also would force people who own those types of guns to give them up. They were soon barraged with hundreds of opposition phone calls and emails” (Keller). Congress recently considered another bill that would have enforced the expansion of background checks for all firearm purchases (Williams). The bill, which also included bans on high-capacity gun magazines and assult weapons, was defeated by a filibuster on April 17: “a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines all failed to get the 60 votes needed under an agreement between both parties” (Weisman). Many still disagree with tighter gun control because they feel it would be violating their rights. If you purchase a small hand gun or any gun for that matter, it needs to be registered, and background checks should be required.
In conclusion, despite what many may think, arming teachers is a terrible idea because of the risks involved: a hostile environment, arming a teacher who has a psychological disorder, the expense of gun training for staff, and the possibility of guns being taken from schools. Other thoughtfully considered and sensible solutions will make schools safer environments for our children.
Anonymous. Personal Interview. 29 Mar. 2013.
Coleman, Tony. Personal Interview. 16 Apr. 2013.
Cooper, Brad. “Kansas Bill Would Allow School Employees to Carry Guns.” Kansas City Star. Kansas City Star, 13 Mar. 2013. Web 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/13/3283147/kansas-bill-would-allow-school.html>.
Johnson, M. Alex. “Guns Already Allowed in Schools with Little Restriction in Some States.” NBCNEWS.com. NBC Nightly News, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/14/16468754-guns-already-allowed-in-schools-with-little-restriction-in-many-states?lite>.
Jones, Cheyenne. Personal Interview. 26 Feb. 2013.
Keller, Rudi. “Gun Control Bill Triggers Opposition.” Columbia Daily Tribune. 20 Feb. 2013, 2A. Print.
Weisman, Jonathan. “Senate Blocks Drive for Gun Control.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. < http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/us/politics/senate-obama-gun-control.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
Welsh, Teresa. “Should Teachers Be Armed?” Arm The Teachers. 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://www.armtheteachers.co/>.
Williams, Matt. “Gun Control: Obama Set on Signing ‘Strongest’ Bill as Congress Returns.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/07/obama-gun-control-bill-congress>.