Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- The U.S. Department of Education is considering a program to buy guns for teachers. This is not a statement that I ever imagined that I could make until recently, but such are the times in which we live.
These times do not include an increase in school shootings, it’s important to note. The impression that media headlines give us to the contrary, the risk of being shot at school now is about a fifth of what it was in the 1990s. The research is also slim on the question of whether media celebration—and there’s no other word that describes the coverage so well—of mass shootings inspires more of them, though that is at least a possibility.
It’s still early days with regard to the proposal, though there is a lot to think carefully about before a good decision could be made.
For one thing, while I am certainly a supporter of the right to carry firearms in public, a right that I exercise myself, I have to acknowledge that elementary and secondary schools present challenges that must be attended to. Teachers on those levels are acting in loco parentis, creating levels of responsibility that most of us don’t have. The straw man version of arming teachers presented by gun control advocates—guns being handed out to all takers with no questions asked—is a bad idea. If we are going to give guns to school employees, that program should include training in how to deal with an active shooter situation when the armed good people are obliged to defend others, rather than focusing on getting themselves out as expeditiously as possible.
But when we are spending public funds, there are also the questions of priorities and of evidence that must be taken into account. Given the Trump administration’s proposed cut of 13.5 percent of federal education spending in the 2018 budget, it’s worth asking whether we have the money for this latest program and what won’t get paid for as a result. Now if the argument is that we should end all federal funding of education, that is a different question. But if we are going to spend some money to promote education, there is a finite pie and not everyone gets a piece of the same size.
And then there’s the point about evidence. Claims, for example, about Israeli teachers being armed fall apart upon checking, and while it’s not clear how many teachers in America are carrying legally, the percentage of total educational staff throughout the country is small. The data set at the moment is insufficient to make broad claims.
This goes both ways, of course. Conclusive evidence that armed teachers would be a disaster is also lacking. The data on concealed carry license holders generally and how often we commit violent crimes are thin, but the State of Texas provides a good case study. The Department of Public Safety there publishes conviction rates of the state’s population and of people who are licensed to carry yearly. The latter category comes in at a fraction of one percent year by year. This suggests to me that letting some teachers who are willing to go through the process of getting licensed and trained in the specifics of school shootings would not be outrageous to try.
For the moment, let’s allow such teachers to arm themselves on their own. We can even let them use training programs as a part of their annual continuing education requirements. And then we’ll see what happens. Given the record of carry license holders, this is not a wild proposal. It also isn’t a leap to one answer without evidence.
The exercise of a right does not equate automatically to having that right funded by the government—the latter requires evidence that it’s a good idea. Let’s get the evidence for or against arming teachers and then we can decide where to go from there.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.