After months of deliberation, the Levelland Independent School District school board has approved a proposal to allow teachers to carry concealed handguns on campus.
Kelly Baggett, Levelland ISD superintendent, will handpick the teachers who will work with Concealed Handgun License instructors and ultimately carry firearms in the classroom. The school board decision came in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and the approval of Senate Bill 1857 in the Texas Legislature, allowing school districts to work with CHL instructors to arm teachers.
With the rash of gun violence on school campuses nationwide in recent years, it makes sense to take precautions to prevent a tragedy such as a school shooting from happening. However, looking at Levelland ISD’s decision, one can’t help but wonder whether it’s the best course of action to prepare for a school shooting.
If you’ve paid any attention at all to the mainstream news media for the past few years, you will have heard at least some form of debate about whether reeling back regulations on firearms will help prevent public gun violence, especially when it comes to an active shooter on a school campus. However, policies introducing more guns to the situation have not and will not solve any of the actual problems presented to the American public by the prospect of dealing with a school shooting.
Take, for example, proponents of legislation that trains and arms teachers in school districts, who often justify such policy with insufficient response times from law enforcement and claim that such action will provide an extra line of defense against a school shooter, increasing campus security. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard such people say something to the effect of “Criminals don’t care that it’s a crime to take a gun into a ‘gun-free zone.’”
There are numerous flaws with such policy. Unless schools that arm teachers also are willing to pay for and write in basic firearm safety education to their curricula, introducing guns to a classroom setting increases the chances that a firearm will end up in the untrained hands of a student.
Even if bringing guns into the classroom makes the few teachers who genuinely want to carry handguns in the classroom feel in some way empowered, it puts additional stress on other teachers and students as a whole and detracts from the open learning environment the public school classroom is supposed to be. Many of my peers in the Texas public education system and I who went through primary and secondary education were taught various methods and reasons to sort out our differences through non-violent means.
While it is a fact of life that not all conflicts can be solved non-violently, introducing guns to a classroom setting directly contradicts that message and is bound to increase the level of gun violence if not in schools, then in public when those students graduate.
Another aspect of arming teachers that its proponents seem to miss is the fact that armed civilians have stopped very few mass shootings. A study conducted by Mother Jones found that in the past 30 years, there have been 62 mass shootings — defined by the FBI as occurring in a public place and having four or more fatalities — of which only two were stopped by armed civilians, and of whom one was gravely injured and the other shot and killed.
In fact, most of the less lethal public shootings that were successfully stopped by armed civilians were done so by off-duty and former police officers who were trained to handle high-stress and dangerous situations. According to Slate.com, an online news magazine, other academic studies on the effectiveness of reeling back gun regulations to prevent mass shootings have proven inconclusive at best.
Simply put, armed civilians are less effective at handling active shooter situations and are actually likely to cause more bloodshed. Many school districts throughout the years have taken precautionary measures against school violence with metal detectors at the doors and increasing the number of campus police forces.
One thing I find interesting about the arguments I hear to train and arm classroom teachers is they often come from the very same people who are quick to cut public education funding. With public education funding shrinking every time budgets are put together, it should be interesting to see where school districts that want to train and arm teachers will get the money to do so and how many of those will be school districts in poorer areas with higher crime rates and actually in need of increased security.
If the American people are worried about public school shootings, maybe it’s time to educate children in public schools about gun safety rather than glorify guns and violence. If not that, then maybe it’s time to increase funding for highly trained public school campus security forces. Either way, putting guns in the hands of classroom teachers should be the last measure taken to ward off the prospect of a school shooting. It will be interesting to see how Levelland ISD’s new school board decision on this issue will pan out in the future.