The Case For Arming Teachers

Alex Hughes, Guest Writer

At this moment, the nation is searching for a solution to a pressing problem. Our schools are under attack, and we all wish to protect them. However, there is considerable disagreement as to the best solution. I believe that an excellent start would be to begin arming our teachers, because gun-free zones are inherently dangerous, teachers can provide a successful line of defense against future school shooters, and teacher intervention can be preferable to armed guards or even police.

A standard sign poster around schools with armed faculty to deter attacks.

If simply keeping weapons out of various areas made them safer, then arming teachers would be a foolish choice. However, this is not the case. Most schools today are gun-free zones, where only police officers are allowed to carry firearms. The problem arises when monsters like Nikolas Cruz refuse to obey the law. Current restrictions empower these lawbreakers, as shown by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). The CPRC reports that from 2009 to 2014, 92% of public mass shootings occurred in “gun-free zones” (see figure 4a, below). This is not a coincidence; many mass shooters do take the security of their target into consideration. Additionally, the CPRC reports that many have written about avoiding targets protected by armed personnel. As Elliot Rodger, a mass shooter, put it, “It would be impossible to kill enough of my enemies before being dispatched…” Additionally, the Aurora, Colorado shooter went to the only theater near his apartment where guns were banned. Given that “Gun-Free Zone” signs attract society’s most dangerous members, we should remove them from our schools. The deterrent effect could be further compounded by making the teachers conceal their weapons. This would prevent attackers from knowing which classrooms were protected, as well as guard against any student attempting to steal a weapon.

Putting a few carefully managed guns into schools won’t just deter potential mass shooters. It also provides a way to handle those individuals who attack schools anyway. The FBI reports that 3.1% of mass shootings were stopped by armed civilians from 2000 to 2013. Given that only 8% of shootings occurred outside gun-free zones, 38.8% of mass shootings were stopped after intervention by the “good guy with a gun” when such intervention was possible. In fact, some shootings have already been stopped by armed faculty. The Huffington Post reports that in 1997 a shooter at Pearl High School was stopped by the assistant principal, who was armed. The Crime Prevention Research Center reports similar situations at a school in Edinboro, Pa., as well as the Appalachian Law School in Virginia, among others. Some of the most vocal opponents to this plan are concerned about teachers themselves firing upon students. However, this ignores the lack of such incidents in the schools who have resource officers and armed teachers. I could not find a single instance of an armed teacher opening fire upon an innocent student. As far as I can tell, these concerns, while well-intentioned, are unfounded.

A teacher training for an active shooter situation.

I’d also like to review a few reasons teachers would be preferable to armed guards or even police. Teachers are permanently stationed at schools, allowing an instant response to active shooter situations. On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal reports that it takes police 11 minutes on average to respond to calls. These minutes are crucial; Nikolas Cruz, for example, opened fire for only 5 minutes. This is also important to consider when concerns about police correctly distinguishing between teachers and shooters- the event will likely be over by the time police arrive anyway.  Additionally, for schools it is much cheaper to train existing faculty than to hire extra guards or school resource officers. The Clarksdale School District in Arkansas was able to train 13 staff members for a cost of a little over $5,000 each, while a single guard would have cost $50,000 annually. Finally, armed guards don’t have to engage the shooter, as demonstrated by Deputy Scot Peterson, who stood outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while the shooting took place. Teachers don’t have that choice; if they are attacked they have to respond. Currently, we tell them to run or hide. I want to give them a better last resort: fight back.

As we band together to protect our schools, we owe it to one another to examine potential solutions with a critical eye. Our schools can no longer afford to be gun-free. Instead, we should arm our teachers as a critical line of defense against the monsters among us. We cannot stop all school shootings before they happen. We can, however, give America’s teachers a chance to protect themselves and the children under their care.