Arm the teachers?
By Alex Culpepper
America’s largest pro-Second Amendment lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has pointed out that “gun free” public places such as banks and airports have made popular exceptions with armed security for decades. In reaction to the killings in Sandy Hook, Conn., last month, the NRA’s latest proposal is that schools, like airports and banks, should have armed guards in place to prevent further tragedies like the one that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. White House reaction to the shooting initially yielded a new task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden whose mission was to find a way to address gun violence in the wake of what happened in Connecticut. In reaction, several U.S. lawmakers immediately called for swift passage of an assault weapons ban. President Obama followed suit with his recent speech mandate to ban assault weapons, in addition to other measures. The movement, however, is attracting followers, along with another more controversial proposal: arming teachers and staff in schools.
Fifteen states already have armed teacher training, and Ohio is one of them. Here in Ohio an “Armed Teacher Training Program” is being developed by three groups: The Buckeye Firearms Foundation, The Buckeye Firearms Association and the Tactical Defense Institute. Their goal is to supply firearm training for teachers and other school employees – free of charge. So far at least, two local school districts – Springboro and Tipp City – have opened dialogue about allowing armed teachers and administrators in schools.
Of course, people are divided on these developments. Those who do not favor armed security or arming teachers worry about practicality: Could a handgun-toting teacher or even a security officer really prevent, stop or diminish injury and/or fatality in a school scenario – especially with someone who doesn’t care whether he or she gets killed? Further, some argue that the use of armed security creates an “armed camp” environment. Still, others more in line with Vice President Biden’s vision think that we can make schools safer by implementing tighter restrictions on people’s access to these weapons in the first place.
For those in favor of armed protection at schools, the issue is pretty simple: security. They argue that it is impossible for the police to respond to these types of situations quickly enough, and if it is general knowledge that schools have armed security, then potential shooters might not act. Having someone there to stop or deter another active shooter is the goal. After all, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, NRA Chief executive in a statement only one week after the school massacre in Connecticut. His supporters find this logic irresistible.
Whatever the solution is, this is just the beginning of where each side differs. Where some favor trained armed security – such as the police – strolling the school grounds rather than having teachers (read: amateurs) protecting schools and students, others think that fewer guns and stronger laws are the answers.
Debate Forum Question of the Week:
“Should schools be included in the same category as airports, banks and other public places where armed security is the only exception to an otherwise “no guns allowed” environment? Should schools go even further and permit qualified school staff to be armed in schools?”
Debate Left: Armed teachers ≠ safer campuses
I was two paragraphs into writing this article when I looked up the details of the beastly gun used in the Sandy Hook massacre to kill 20 precious children and six heroic teachers, and that is when I lost it. I feel a deep sadness for the victims and their families, and I feel angry at those who are supporting the spread of more guns in the wake of this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Sandy Hook victims and every person who was disturbed by this horrific shooting.
It was a .223-caliber Bushmaster assault rifle that shoots six bullets per second. “I only did seven of the autopsies,” medical examiner Wayne Carver said. “The victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds a piece, and I only saw two of them with close-range shooting.” The killer, Adam Lanza, had three other guns: two semi-automatic pistols in his cargo pants and a gun that was left in the car.
Why would any civilian need a gun that can spray an entire room and kill dozens of people aimlessly in a matter of seconds? For self-defense? I do not think this is the type of security that the Constitution protects. All the guns were legally registered to Nancy Lanza, who was not able to use any of them to protect herself against her son’s rage when he shot and killed her with her own gun. This situation, in which a gun owner gets shot by his/her gun, is not an outlier in gun violence, and neither are the situations in which gun owners are shot and killed before they could access their guns to “protect” themselves, but this particular debate is more about teachers carrying guns than gun violence, per se.
While I am sure the National Rifle Association (NRA) would love to have 3.7 million new gun carriers, allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons in response to the tragic Sandy Hook shooting would not be an effective or healthy solution to ending gun violence on school campuses. I realize that passing such a law would not cause millions of teachers to run out and get a gun. However, teachers across the states, who would do anything to save their students’ lives, are vulnerable now to the ideological manipulation of the pro-gun lobby. Taking advantage of schoolteachers by passing such a law and making them believe it would help to keep their students safe is not only inaccurate, but also morally wrong.
Having a weapon inside classrooms is unsafe for many reasons, but my focus here is on the mental health consequences of children thinking they need to be constantly “protected” by guns. Constantly feeling nervous about a weapon in classrooms is unhealthy for society. We do not stay locked up at home even though we know there are murderers and rapists potentially everywhere, because that would be an unhealthy, paranoid way to live. Well, we should not allow our children to be around guns or to let them grow up thinking that guns are a necessary safety measure, because there are horrific shootings that happen at schools. We need to help children heal from the trauma and let them return to being kids. A school should be a carefree zone. Having guns on campuses will not allow for that, regardless of who is carrying the gun.
This irresponsible hysteria about having armed security or armed teachers on campuses needs to stop. What we need to do is pause for a moment and re-think the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Having the automatic rifle allowed one person to kill 26 people before anyone could stop him. Either way you look at it, we are failing in both directions: the fact is guns kill people, but we certainly need to improve our methods of talking to students about bullying, counseling rape and other abuse victims, properly diagnosing the mentally ill and helping ex-prisoners reintegrate into society. Those measures, along with taking steps to restrict gun ownership, will be a much healthier and effective way to reduce gun violence.
Rana Odeh is a DCP Debate Forum freelance writer. She holds a BA in English and Philosophy from UD and is currently a graduate student in the ICP Program at Wright State University. Reach Rana at
RanaOdeh@DaytonCityPaper.com or view her work at RanaOdeh.com
Debate Right: Armed education
By Derek DeBrosse
At a time when our nation mourns the loss of innocent life, we have entered into a debate on how such a tragedy could have occurred and what should be done. We must realize as a nation that we live in an imperfect world where bad things happen. We must approach such tragedies with rational and logical thought and not ignore the obvious.
There has been much discussion about armed security and even armed teachers in our school system. This article is written in support of such ideas, as they are the logical, rational and realistic mechanisms that we must put into practice in an effort to prevent further tragedy. By slapping a feel good law on the books, we achieve nothing except to further divide our country and punish law-abiding citizens. Simply put, criminals are criminals because they disobey laws, so it is illogical to believe that these laws would achieve anything fruitful.
Throughout these past few months I have routinely debated this very issue and time and time again I hear the same rhetoric that “more guns are not the answer.” Proponents of self-defense are not necessarily advocating for “more” guns; what we are advocating is the ability of those in a position to stop violence to have the means to stop that violence. The argument is simple: criminals are predators and target the vulnerable. When we as a society create environments (i.e. gun-free zones) where citizens are unable to protect themselves, we make those citizens vulnerable and open to attack by such predators.
I recently contacted a friend who is a teacher and her opinion was very telling. She stated that she did not feel safe for herself or for her students. Her school currently has in place a “crisis plan” which states that they are to lock down the rooms and hide. She noted that there is nowhere to hide. She believes that if there were someone trained with the use of a firearm she would feel much safer. Now this is not to say that all teachers should carry or are in support of such actions. However, we should consult with those at the front lines, teachers like my friend, in trying to find a solution.
Looking at gun laws in the United States, I believe we can say most assuredly that more regulations are clearly not the answer. In 1994, an “assault weapons” ban was implemented by Congress. In 1999, during this ban, the massacre at Columbine High School occurred. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech completed one of the most successful school massacres in our nation’s history. As a student, he was forbidden from carrying firearms on campus. His restriction from carrying firearms on campus did not prevent the tragedy. Moreover, Mr. Cho used two handguns and had passed a background check in their acquisition. More regulations will have zero impact on such tragedies, as can be seen historically. Moreover, many involved in this debate ignore the incidents where law-abiding gun owners stopped further harm, such as the tragedy at the Appalachian School of Law in 2002.
We have this desire to believe that if we illegalize weapons that can be used for evil, the evil will stop. What many fail to realize is that a gun has no conscience; it does not reason and does not have a free will. It is the person behind the trigger who acts; it is the person behind the trigger who is the problem, yet many continually ignore this fact.
I believe that a serious debate should be had as to the mental health system in this nation. Not being a mental health professional, I cannot adequately propose any such solutions on this front. What I can propose as a gun owner, Second Amendment lawyer, Concealed Handgun Instructor and concerned citizen is that allowing those on the front lines the ability to protect our children after the proper training seems logical, rational and realistic.
Derek DeBrosse is a Second Amendment lawyer and founding partner at Barney DeBrosse, LLC a full service statewide law practice based out of Columbus, Ohio. He is a firearms instructor and gives legal presentations for numerous other instructors, Derek also serves as General Counsel for Ohioans for Concealed Carry. Learn more at OhioGunLawyer.com.