Should Teachers Be Allowed to Carry Guns?

Umpqua school shooting
Police officers inspect bags as students and staff are evacuated from campus following a shooting incident at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. Michael Sullivan/The News-Review/Reuters

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Answer from Daniel Kaplan, teacher:

Until 2016, my Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit was valid on school campuses in California. There was a legal exemption for peace officers and valid CCW holders which allowed them to carry in so-called "Gun-Free School Zones." As of 2016, the legislature and governor decided that I should not be able to carry on school campuses by signing SB 707.

The fact that they allow a number of other people, including retired law enforcement agents (a very broad term including a lot of people you wouldn't think of as law enforcement agents), many of whom have never trained and are (on paper) as trained and trustworthy as I am, doesn't make a difference to them. Apparently not all citizens are equal. The law was appealed and upheld, but is still in the courts, with those opposed claiming that it is a constitutional violation and a matter of discrimination.

In the wake of this law, some school districts have specifically allowed teachers to carry firearms. This decision has met some resistance. In one example, Kern High School District's decision is being appealed. The petition to have the board reverse their decision doesn't appear to be terribly well received (it has just slightly more than half the number of signatures needed for approval) [1].

Though I had permission from the state to carry a firearm on campus, I never did. Even if I were comfortable with it, I knew that my school district would fire me if my carrying of a firearm was noted.

My school has had a few lock downs related to firearms. Most notably, we had one back in February where some landowners in a field adjacent to the school had fired some shots to scare off or kill some wild dogs in the area. We had an incident about two blocks away where an attempted traffic stop wound up with an officer shooting an armed criminal. There were a few others, but most of them were essentially false alarms.

We generally have a police officer on campus along with a few "campus safety officers." Only the police officer has a gun.

Should teachers be armed? It depends upon how you mean. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with teachers being specifically tasked to also be de facto police officers. I don't want to be saddled with the responsibility and duty to protect others. Had I wanted to do that, I could have become a police officer. I chose not to. "No man can serve two masters." I can teach, or I can protect. If I'm in charge of a classroom, what happens to the students for whom I'm responsible if I'm also tasked to (I guess) go investigate and potentially neutralize a threat? That just doesn't work.

I would also be worried about the selection process for such a program. I have several coworkers who have shown a marked propensity to do stupid things and exhibit a lack of critical thinking skills. I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't want them armed in a moment of crisis. If a district decided to arm teachers on my campus, I'd have to be absolutely certain that they would be rigorously selected and trained. I'd have to be sure that they could fail out of any program. They would have to be accurate, decisive, thoughtful, and quick thinking.

I would like to think that I'm the ideal candidate for such a program. I practice shooting pretty religiously. I shoot in a variety of disciplines. I'm not easily rattled. On the other hand, I'm sure that some of my more untrustworthy or suspect colleagues also think that they're the perfect candidate and are champing at the bit to slice the pie and clear rooms during their prep periods.

My suggestion is somewhat simpler. Instead of arming teachers, give them the same power they had before 2016. If they have a CCW permit, allow them to carry as before. Don't make it a duty to dash out and protect people. Instead, a CCW permit is a license to carry a firearm to protect yourself and others.

If the district wants to specifically sanction a teacher to carry a firearm on campus, that should be a teacher who has a CCW, a teacher who has been selected by administration, a teacher who has done some very specific firearms training involving force-on-force simulators, and a teacher who has passed rigorous examinations.

In the final analysis, I've never heard of a CCW holder committing an act of violence on a school campus. The one CCW holder I know of who committed a serious crime was a security guard who used a gun which wasn't on his permit, thus making the CCW a non-issue. This isn't to say that CCW holders are more trustworthy (though statistics do point to that), but rather to point out that CCWs aren't magical, just as GFSZs aren't magical. Law abiding citizens follow the law. That's part of the job. Criminals don't. That's part of the job.


[1] Coalition Asks Bakersfield School Board to Reverse Policy on Guns on Campus

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