In Wake of Parkland Shooting, Proposals for Arming Teachers Likely to Resurface

By Madeline Will — February 15, 2018 4 min read
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Seventeen people are dead and several more are injured after a former student opened fire with an assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. The Parkland, Fla., school shooting was the nation’s deadliest since the 2012 attack on the Newtown, Conn., elementary school, Sandy Hook.

Now, as policymakers weigh how to respond—some Democrats have advocated for stricter gun control, while President Donald Trump has framed this as a mental health issue—one of the more controversial options is being raised once again: arming teachers at school and training them to shoot back in case of emergency.

While there’s a federal law that prohibits carrying or discharging guns within 1,000 feet of public or private school grounds, at least 15 states allow authorized adults to carry concealed, loaded guns on school grounds (or at least allow districts to make that decision). The federal law provides an exception for law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity.

In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, there’s likely to be a rush of state legislation that calls for loosening or ending the prohibition of guns on school grounds—after the Sandy Hook shooting, 73 of those bills were introduced across the country, according to an Education Week analysis.

And Trump pledged during his presidential campaign to end gun-free school zones, calling them “bait” for “sicko[s].”

Last month, a Maryland representative filed a bill that would give public school districts across the state the authority to allow “certain, select” employees to carry firearms on school property, in case of a school shooting. The representative, Republican Rick Impallaria, told the Associated Press that this bill would allow districts to work with law enforcement and set up a program where qualified employees—such as those with law enforcement or military backgrounds—are able to carry a weapon.

“Why not make sure that our schools have that extra security that if, God forbid, something did go wrong, there is someone on the premises that can respond in seconds rather than minutes?” Impallaria told the AP.

And according to N.C. Insider editor Colin Campbell on Twitter, North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman has called for training and arming teachers in response to the Parkland shooting. “I believe government officials are accountable for the number of deaths and injuries being as high as they are in these incidents,” said Pittman on Thursday. Pittman has previously introduced legislation to allow teachers to carry guns on school grounds, which did not pass.

While districts generally require extensive training for educators who would be armed at school, this type of legislation generates a lot of outrage and concern from educators.

See also: Educators Join New Fight to Block Guns in School

In a recent segment on PBS NewsHour, Education Week explored some of these proposals across the country. Gun-safety advocates say that teachers can’t safely and quickly move from the mindset of teaching to being asked to fire a gun at an active shooter, while some educators say they want to be able to protect their students by any means necessary.

On Twitter, teachers were expressing both support and opposition for these types of proposals:

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that 55 percent of respondents opposed allowing teachers and staff to carry guns in schools, although the idea was more popular among Republicans.

In an Education Week video, a retired principal who survived a 1986 school shooting in Montana spoke about why he opposed guns in schools:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.