Schools are the places we send our kids to learn the facts and develop the skills they will need to not merely survive but flourish in the society they are poised to enter as full-fledged adults.
But American schools have become battlegrounds, scenes of atrocious and violent behavior. Since the horrific details (such as they were) of the Columbine High School mass shooting on April 20, 1999, by two students armed to the teeth and ready to die for whatever it was that their cause was – other than to extract revenge on their classmates who shunned them socially – government officials and school administrators have clamped down on the presence of firearms in schools.
First, we saw metal detectors go into the school entrances. In 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 5 percent of schools used metal detectors. That number grew to 8.7 percent of national public high schools during the 2013-2014 school year.
Metal detectors are a mixed blessing. While effective at screening metal, they fail to detect plastic or other undetectable substances – 3D-printed materials, for example. Also, they are expensive to install and maintain. Payroll for screeners must also be budgeted.
Many New York City schools are located in high-crime areas where incidents involving gun violence number higher than the national average. The New York Police Department revealed how many weapons were confiscated at Big Apple schools for three recent academic years:
2016-2017: 2,120 weapons
2015-2016: 2,053 weapons
2014-2015: 1,673 weapons
In addition to firearms (guns and rifles), security staff removed knives and stun guns from the student body.
New York City faces a chronic school violence problem the best they can and in ways appropriate to their physical environment and neighborhood culture. The State, supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo, recently passed Senate Bill S101A which bans arming teachers in schools. Only safety officials will be authorized to carry a firearm on school grounds after this strict gun control law is enacted.
However, schools in other parts of the United States are responding differently. Their thinking goes along the lines of: Disarming school staff puts every life on school property at high risk of deadly assault by an “active shooter.”
Why let a deranged sociopathic murderer with a gun and a severely bad attitude shoot fish in a barrel, so to speak?
Why indeed? Missouri lawmakers “jumped the gun” on the Parkland, Florida “Valentine’s Day” shooting on February 14, 2018, by enacting self-defense legislation in 2014 that created a framework for arming employees as “school protection officers.”
Under that Missouri law, teachers are only allowed to carry a gun after passing special certification training at a licensed law enforcement academy and registering with the Missouri Department of Public Safety:
“The law demands three weeks of training that includes crisis prevention, criminal law, use of defensive force, use of deadly force, active shooter situations and use of chemical munitions, such as pepper spray.”
Mark Stockwell, Executive Director of the Missouri United School Insurance Council, “biggest fear” was a rise in accidental injuries.
Glenwood Elementary School, located in far south-central Missouri, is in a remote area. Wayne Stewart, School Superintendent, said the 240 students in his district were vulnerable to a shooting attack with no ready help available. He said, “Very likely, the deed would be done by the time emergency responders got here.”
Rural Missouri School Superintendent Gary Doerhoff said many of his 550 students come from military families and the local culture has an informed and tolerant relationship with guns, from growing up hunting with firearms and/or military training.
As of March 2018, no staff members had applied to carry a weapon on school property – despite the relative easy eligibility requirement:
“I’m only interested in staff with firearms experience,” qualified Doerhoff.
Schools in other rural parts of the United States are passing laws to fight back the insanity of crazed lone gunmen by training staff members, including teachers, in the proper and safe use of firearms.
In 2014, this State also passed laws to allow local school districts to arm teachers and staff. Laurens County in rural George is situated about 135 miles southeast of Atlanta. School Superintendent Daniel Brigman enacted his plan to arm staffers after the Parkland shooting, distinguishing his academic zone as the first to protect the safety of his school with sensible and practical self-defense.
“I came to the conclusion that the best way to preserve the safety of staff and students and prevent loss of life was to arm some of the school personnel,” Brigman said.
But it is the Great State of Texas that claims to hold the record for arming their educational employees first.
David Thweatt, a superintendent at Harrold independent school district in north Texas has been arming his staff since 2007. In 2013, Thweatt championed his Guardian Plan which “allows individual school boards to agree the firearms and ammunition that a nominated ‘guardian’ can carry, and the amount of training he or she must undergo.”
The Texan Guardian Plan requires no federal oversight but mandates that guardians must possess a valid gun permit and “do their best to remain anonymous.”
Although the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (GFSZA), which bans any unauthorized individual from knowingly possessing a loaded or unsecured firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone, and the <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun-Free_Schools_Act_of_1994> Gun-Free Schools Act</a> of 1994 (GFSA), which encourages each state receiving federal funds for education to introduce their own zero-tolerance gun laws, were envisioned with school safety as the goal, it is obvious that these zero-tolerance disarmament laws have done nothing to stop a dedicated loner (or duo) from walking right up to his old school and start blazing away.
As of February 2019, the following 12 U.S. States allow school staffers to concealed carry firearms after authorized training and permitting:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Nine states have policies that specifically allow school employees to carry guns on school property, though they may need the district’s permission:
- South Dakota
The trend toward arming some of the fish in the barrel is growing rapidly. Almost half of the 50 U.S. states have laws that permit schools or districts to authorize “individuals” to carry guns.