Guns in classrooms – the truth about Georgia, Ohio, and your school

by Jim Irvine

In her recent article, "Keep the guns out of my classroom" The (UK) Guardian's Ashley Lauren Samsa (a public school teacher from suburban Chicago) makes some good points, but she also confuses the issue with many flawed observations.

Samsa states that, "Many believe teachers should be armed...whether they want to or not." Although she links to a Huffington Post article with this headline, I don't know any expert that thinks every teacher should have a gun. That certainly is not the position of Buckeye Firearms Foundation.

Our position, and that of the national experts, is that every teacher who does want to carry a gun, who has a license to carry a gun, and who has met reasonable guidelines as set forth by the school, should be permitted to use the gun to protect innocent life. No one who does not want to carry a gun should be forced to do so.

Samsa cites a survey in which 72.4% of teachers do not want to bring a gun to school, as if that is a strong indication that teachers don't want guns. If accurate, the number is actually an indication of how strongly teachers want to be able to carry guns compared to the population at large.

In Ohio, approximately 380,000 people, or about 4% of the adult population, have a concealed handgun license (CHL). In other states the estimates are that 3 to 9% of the adult population have a license. Even if we take the 9% extreme, and discount that many people get a concealed carry license for other reasons than a desire to carry all the time, that leaves 91% who don't want a license. So teachers are three times as likely as the rest of the population to want to carry guns!

The survey also notes that, "36.3% of educators surveyed report owning a firearm, 37.1% of whom say they would be likely or very likely to bring it to school if allowed." This would indicate that 13.5% of teachers own a gun and want to bring it to school. This is at least twice what we would expect looking at the population at large, and I would expect the percentage of administrators to be even higher.

The survey also found that 87.8% of educators believe having armed police would improve safety. Calling police to help with violent criminal encounters is commonly accepted practice in your home or any workplace. It seems pretty obvious that having police present from the beginning of an attack would reduce death tolls. The likely explanation for the 12.2% who think police would make schools less safe is hoplophobia, or the fear of guns.

Any way you look at the numbers, teachers want real security in their schools. They are aware of the many mass killings that have happened in schools and they want real solutions to this threat. Armed police are great, if the school or city can afford them, but for those without a law enforcement presence, and for many looking for the best solution, a team of armed teachers and administrators is the common-sense solution to active killers.

Samsa correctly notes that Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk at the Ronald E, McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, successfully talked Brandon Hill, who had entered the school with a gun, into surrendering to police. Tuff was not armed, and had few other options. There is full agreement that Tuff did a remarkable job of remaining calm, controlling the situation, buying herself and others time, and creatively playing a critical role in bringing the situation to a successful resolution. She proves how effective someone can be under duress, and gives a good indication of the kind of people we have working in our schools.

It is important to note that everything Tuff did, she could have done while wearing a concealed handgun. Having a gun does not equate to shooting it. In fact, in John Lott's studies, of the 2,500,000 people annually who use a gun to stop or prevent a crime, 95% of them never shoot their weapon. Having a gun does not take away the talking tactics employed by Tuff, but it may empower others to do the same thing in a similar situation.

More importantly, it serves as a backup in case talking does not solve the problem. When looking at the Georgia case, it is important to note that while this was a situation with an unwanted gun in a school, it was NOT an "active killer" situation. There is nothing to indicate that Tuff could have stopped the killers at Columbine, Red Lake, Virginia Tech, or Newtown. They needed someone with a gun to end the killing, and a lot of extra people died because there were no police or armed school employees inside those schools in time to stop the killers.

The vast majority of our teachers do not want to carry a gun or be the person to end a violent attack. They are good people and good teachers and we are happy to have them for all the good they do for our kids. There is nothing wrong with them.

What many fail to understand is that there is also nothing wrong with the teacher or administrator who does want to carry a gun to protect our children. There is nothing wrong with the person who volunteers to get extra training and be fully prepared to respond instantly to a killer rather than waiting helplessly as someone dies about every 12 seconds while waiting several minutes for police to respond.

There is, however, something very wrong with the person who has at their disposal a person who is willing and able to stop a killer, but prevents them from having the tools ready at hand to do the job. All the "what if..." concerns in the world will not matter to the parents of the dead children after the next mass killing that is sure to come. The only thing that will matter is that the school did not do enough to stop the killer in time, and it is the school's responsibility, not a police responsibility, to ensure the safety of school children.

Denial does not make the threat go away, and hope is not a plan. We have laws requiring that children be educated, and there is a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure their safety. It is commonly accepted practice to protect valuable assets with armed security.

If children are our most precious resource, then it must be negligent to ignore the experts and have no reliable means to stop a person actively killing children in a school. At the end of the day, it is not about keeping "guns" out of classrooms. Rather it is about keeping "killers" out of classrooms. And having teachers armed with guns is a great way to accomplish that goal.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Foundation President, and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

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