In the wake of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, some elected officials are making calls anew for
teachers to be armed and trained to use firearms to protect the nation’s schools. To shine light on the matter, The Conversation reached out to Aimee Huff and Michelle Barnhart, two Oregon State University scholars who have studied the ins and outs of putting guns in the hands of the nation’s teachers as a way to protect students.
1. What does the public think about arming teachers?
According to a 2021 poll, 43% of Americans supported policies that allow school personnel to carry guns in schools.
But if you take a closer look, you see that most of that support comes from Republicans and gun-owners. For instance, 66% of Republican respondents expressed support for such policies, versus just 24% of Democratic respondents. And 63% of gun owners supported allowing school personnel to carry guns, versus just 33% of non-gun owners.
The majority of teachers, parents and students oppose allowing teachers to carry guns.
The largest teachers unions, including the National Education Association, also oppose arming teachers, arguing that bringing more guns into schools “makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence.”
These teachers unions advocate a preventive approach that includes more gun regulations.
While the public is justifiably concerned with eliminating school shootings, there is disagreement over the policies and actions that would be most effective. A 2021 study found that 70% of Americans supported the idea of armed school resource officers and law enforcement in schools, but only 41% supported the idea of training teachers to carry guns in schools.
In our research on how Americans think about the rights and responsibilities related to armed self-defense, we even find disagreement among conservative gun owners over how to best protect schoolchildren. Some advocate arming teachers, while other gun owners believe guns in schools ultimately make children less safe. These conservative opponents of arming teachers instead support fortifying the building’s design and features.
After the massacre in Uvalde, we are seeing renewed calls from politicians to arm teachers and provide them with specialized training.
However, amid conflicting reports about whether police officers engaged the Robb Elementary School shooter, there are renewed questions about whether armed teachers would make a difference. Police have acknowledged they didn’t enter the school even as kids frantically dialed 911.
Given that there were also armed officers present at the Columbine and Parkland school massacres in 1999 and 2018, respectively, the public is understandably right to wonder whether armed teachers can effectively neutralize a shooter. Amid reports that trained and experienced police officers may have been unable or unwilling to intervene against the Uvalde shooter, it’s not clear whether teachers would be, either.
2. What are the potential drawbacks of arming teachers?
Arming teachers introduces risks to students and staff, as well as school districts themselves. These include the risk of teachers accidentally shooting themselves or students and fellow staff. There are also moral and legal risks associated with improper or inaccurate defensive use of a firearm – even for teachers who have undertaken specialized firearms training.
One study found that highly trained police in gunfights hit their target only 18% of the time. Even if teachers, who would likely have less training, achieve the same accuracy, four or five of every six bullets fired by a teacher would hit something or someone other than the shooter. Further, a teacher responding with force to a shooter may be mistaken for the perpetrator by law enforcement or by armed colleagues.
Introducing guns to the school environment also poses everyday risks. Armed teachers may unintentionally discharge their firearm. For instance, an armed police officer accidentally discharged his weapon in his office at a school in Alexandria, Virginia in 2018. Guns can also fall into the wrong hands. Research on shootings that took place in hospital emergency rooms found that in 23% of the cases, the weapon used was a gun the perpetrator took from a hospital security guard.
Students could also access firearms that are improperly stored or mishandled. Improper storage is a common problem among American gun owners. In a school setting, this has resulted in students finding a teacher’s misplaced firearm, sometimes taking it or reporting it to another school official. News reports show that guns carried into schools have fallen out of teachers’ clothing, and have been left in bathrooms and locker rooms. There have also been reports of students stealing guns from teachers.
Insurance companies also see concealed guns on school grounds as creating a heightened liability risk.
Other drawbacks to arming teachers involve the learning environment. In particular, owing to structural racism and discriminatory school security policies, Black high school students are less supportive than white students of arming teachers – 16% versus 26% – and report feeling less safe if teachers are carrying firearms.
3. What are the arguments for arming teachers?
Proponents emphasize that teachers, as Americans, have a right to use firearms to defend themselves against violent crime, including a school shooter. Our research shows that some people interpret their right to armed self-defense as a moral obligation, and argue that teachers have both a right and a responsibility to use firearms to protect themselves and their students.
Parents who regularly carry handguns to protect themselves and their children may take comfort knowing that their child’s teacher could perform the role of protector at school.
In a school shooting, where lives can be saved or ended in a matter of seconds, some people may feel more secure believing a shooter would immediately meet armed resistance from a teacher without needing to wait for an armed school officer to respond.
4. Have any school districts allowed teachers to arm themselves?
Yes. Teachers may carry guns at school in districts in at least 19 states. The idea surfaced as a viable policy after the 1999 Columbine shooting, and gained momentum after the 2018 Parkland shooting.
The number of school districts that permit teachers to be armed is difficult to ascertain. Policies vary across states. New York bars school districts from allowing teachers to carry guns, while Missouri and Montana authorize teachers to carry firearms.
5. What were the results?
There are documented incidents of school staff using their firearm to neutralize a shooter. However, researchers have not found evidence that arming teachers increases school safety. Rather, arming teachers may contribute to a false sense of security for teachers, students and the community.
Aimee Huff, Associate Professor, Marketing, Oregon State University and Michelle Barnhart, Associate Professor, Marketing, Oregon State University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Aimee Huff and Michelle Barnhart are both Associate Professors of Marketing at Oregon State University.
The Conversation arose out of deep-seated concerns for the fading quality of our public discourse and recognition of the vital role that academic experts could play in the public arena. Information has always been essential to democracy. It’s a societal good, like clean water. But many now find it difficult to put their trust in the media and experts who have spent years researching a topic. Instead, they listen to those who have the loudest voices. Those uninformed views are amplified by social media networks that reward those who spark outrage instead of insight or thoughtful discussion. The Conversation seeks to be part of the solution to this problem, to raise up the voices of true experts and to make their knowledge available to everyone. The Conversation publishes nightly at 9 p.m. on FlaglerLive.
Deirdre Rutledge says
One thing you don’t hear much about is facilitating teachers and staff to have access to non-lethal weapons such as stun guns or mace. They’re still weapons, but could be secured for safety, in the same way fire extinguishers are in reach for an extreme emergency.
That would be likely more effective anyway since bullets don’t usually hit their target, would do the job of stopping a shooter long enough for police to get there, and certainly less concerning if things went wrong, such as the weapon falling into the wrong hands.
I think having more guns at school would be a terrible mistake, for the sake of school safety it would ultimately backfire (no pun intended).
Your kidding right? What’s next? Arm the cashier at Publix? How about those who work the concession at the theater, give them an Uzi? Get real please.
How about removing the root problem? Ease of ownership of an AR is not all that difficult to remedy. We know it’s dangerous, the cops ran away. All that has to be done is remove those who vote against doing something to end these senseless murders.
Hire police and make them do their job – PROTECT and SERVE !!!!
G A says
This shouldn’t even be on anyone’s discussion list. It’s like arguing if the grass is blue or pink. Of course, it is only being discussed at all because republicans keep bringing it up. Rather than resume the ban of assault weapons (which the republicans let slide and shootings climbed rapidly once more after they did that), they would propose to arm teachers instead. There truly is only one solution here. Vote ONLY democratic. This will insure that the ban of assault weapons returns and stricter background checks are enforced. Let the adults handle this, and the republicans can go sit in the corner wearing dunce hats.
Hearten Lady says
Sage advice! 👍
Agreed! I don’t get why arming a teacher is any better that a armed cop. A few armed cops was tried and they simply walked away and let kids die. Will the teacher have a 50 cal machine gun mounted on her desk to defend her class? How quickly the repubs attempt to slide the solution to anybody other than themselves. 60% or better of those polled want meaningful gun legislation. If the elected legislators, both state and federal, won’t do their damn job, vote them out!
OMG! Now the imbeciles in the Republican party want teachers to also serve as armed guards against military styled semi and fully automatic weapons sold to teenagers! You know, the same weapons the “trained” police in Texas were afraid to face while they let children get murdered behind that door! The Republican politicians have completely lost their minds. . . along with their moral compass!
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! DEMOCRATIC!
I know many teachers who have stories to tell about how much administrative hassle they have to deal with if they even look at an abusive or confrontational student the wrong way. I can just imagine what THIS could lead to!
Reality Sets In says
Around 19.8 million AR-15 style rifles are in circulation in the US, a nationwide tally that’s surged from around 8.5 million since a federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. US consumers own around 393 million firearms, both legal and illegal, according to 2018 data from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based project from the Geneva Graduate Institute. That means there are more guns than people in the US. Of that total, around 741,000 are fully automatic machine guns registered in the US, up from almost 457,000 in 2010, per ATF reports.
GOOD LUCK TAKEN 393 Million firearms away from Americans. Its NOT going to happen
Just Me says
Wake up people the Cult GOP party feel the answer is to arm everyone, WRONG AS USUAL. How about restrictions and regulation on firearms sales. How about background checks, how about banning sales of military war weapons built to kill many people at one time. How about that?
The Cult GOP is going to start their propaganda that the government wants to take their weapons. No one but them are saying that, as usual spreading more lies to get everyone rattled.
Jack Howell says
This is totally the wrong move. Teachers are hired to teach period. The politicians that propose this concept of arming teachers are looking for the easy way out. They want no dialogue or discourse on the 2nd Amendment or for that matter, the 1st Amendment. They continue to stick their collective heads in the ground.
The horror that took place in Uvalde, TX is despicable and an embarrassment to our country. The same can be said of the Buffalo, NY shootings as well as all the other mass shootings in our recent history. Now once again, while the nation is outraged, our politicians continue to use useless rhetoric and promise to pass meaningful legislation to stop people who have mental issues from obtaining weapons. But in reality, you and I both know that nothing will be done to prevent it from happening again and again and again! Just more hot air and lying from our politicians. Why?
Why can’t laws be tweaked to mitigate this continuing horror? Three letters come to mind that is at the core of this issue. The NRA is so powerful that politicians will not poke the bear! It is no secret that politicians out-right FEAR upsetting the NRA and losing the NRA PAC money for their campaigns. The anal’s in Congress and the Senate are nothing more than blowhards who will attempt to placate the public. Some of these slimy politicians will even show crocodile tears and act like they really care…but they don’t. Never bite the hand that feeds you is their motto!
Don’t get me wrong. I totally support the 1st and 2nd Amendments. I own firearms. However, some of the far right, right, left, and far-left social media posts are planting evil concepts. It is all over social media as well as in video games. I am not against citizens buying firearms. However, I do question the need for selling assault-type weapons. I do believe that federal laws need to be tweaked to better regulate the sale of these weapons as well as better background checks as a start. I feel that the NRA should work hand in hand with Congress to address this issue. Of course, this is not absolute. It is a start! We, as a nation, must solve this issue NOW! No more killings! But, I know the reality of dealing with career politicians like Ted Cruz and the others of his ilk.
I was a career Marine Corps officer and my oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies Foreign and Domestic is still valid today even though I’m now retired. In my Marine Corps career, I served two different times (tours) in Washington, DC. Many times I was required to work with the Congressional or Senate staffers. I got a good education on how the system of our government works. When I arrived back at my quarters at the end of the day, I showered and scrubbed to make sure I did not carry the filth of Congress into my residence whenever visiting the Hill!
When I was teaching Junior ROTC at the high school level, marksmanship was part of the syllabus. We used NRA training material. It all came to stop for me when the NRA supported the use of Teflon-coated bullets. Teflon-coated bullets
have once use. They penetrate armor vests that are worn by law enforcement and military personnel. I immediately canceled my membership in the NRA. In my mind, the NRA is on a different path that I will not follow.
Will our elected officials finally grow a set and stand up to the NRA? The NRA convention in Huston, TX was the time and place. It did not happen as evidenced by the speeches given at the convention! More mass shootings will continue in the weeks ahead. Oh, one last thing, I’m not buying the COVID bs excuse that the shooters are acting out their aggression because of the mandatory quarantines and restrictions on movement during the pandemic.
We as a nation can beat this horror if we join together and turn our collective energy on our politicians who don’t want to poke the NRA aka the bear!