While finger-pointing continues over the Florida school shooting, it’s time to arm our teachers.
Understandably, much has been written about the awful school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 young people were slaughtered at the hands of a sick and evil human being. The tragedy was particularly vexing as there were so many warning signs – indications that the killer, Nikolas Cruz, was planning his brutal act and was very capable of carrying it out.
Social media: Last year, there was a YouTube post by “Nikolas Cruz,” who wrote: “Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter.”
Sheriff’s visits: Police responded to Cruz’s home 39 times over a seven-year period, according to documents released after the shooting. Full details are not yet available, but the nature of the emergencies at his home included “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance” and “missing person.”
FBI notification: The law-enforcement agency admittedly failed to investigate a warning that Cruz possessed a gun and planned to use it. Apparently a person who was close to the gunman called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5th, several weeks before the shooting, to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, “as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”
While our law enforcement agencies clearly need to get their collective acts together, we need to figure out how best to protect our children from crazed shooters. Blanket gun control is a useless non-starter and a ban on AR-15’s might feel good but is hardly a realistic remedy. Teacher union leaders scream for more money so that every school can have a guidance counselor. That may be a good idea, but it’s not nearly enough.
Just a few days ago, National Review’s David French penned a thoughtful piece about GVROs – Gun Violence Restraining Orders – which permit a close relative or person living with a troubled individual to petition a court for an order which would enable authorities to temporarily take that individual’s firearms away. (California already has a GRVO statute on the books. Maybe now that it’s in the news, more people will become aware of it.)
But at the end of the day, there will be always be someone who slips through the cracks and winds up on a school campus with a weapon ready for mayhem. At that point all the FBI reports, hand-wringing and guidance counselors won’t be of much use. The only thing that may help at that point is armed teachers.
As I wrote after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, we need to have a few teachers at every school packing a concealed firearm. These volunteers would go through a rigorous background check and proper police-type training, and then should be allowed to anonymously carry a concealed weapon on campus. And only the principal should know who the armed educators are.
Some naysayers may argue that many schools already have a “campus cop” and that is enough. But in Parkland, the armed security guard never had a chance to encounter Cruz. Many schools have sprawling campuses and if a shooter goes where the cop isn’t, students are completely unprotected. Hence we need more than one person capable of defending unarmed kids. And there have been some rumblings in that direction.
In Virginia, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart wants trained teachers to have the option to carry concealed weapons during class. Stewart, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, asserts, “If there is an active shooter inside the school, at least there will be somebody [there] who is going to be able to defend themselves and defend the students.” But National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen-García is adamantly opposed. “Let’s just admit that even just gun accidents happen all the time. More guns in the school is not a solution.”
Alabama State Rep. Will Ainsworth is also seeking a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns on campus. His proposed legislation lets public schools designate employees to undergo training and have concealed carry access.
Legislators in North Carolina and Maryland have comparable proposals in the pipeline.
Similar bills have failed in the past, however. In Florida, legislator Greg Steube introduced a bill in 2014 which would have allowed teachers to be armed on school campuses. But the measure evaporated when the teachers unions and the PTA mounted enough political pressure to kill it.
In California, shortly after my Sandy Hook post in 2012, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly proposed AB 202, which would have provided for the training of educators in the use of concealed weapons. But it never had a chance in the state legislature, which is essentially run by the California Teachers Association.
The notion that schools should be “gun-free zones” sounds good, but since evil-doers don’t play by the rules, the consequences can be devastating. On airplanes, armed marshals are placed anonymously on flights to safeguard us and our children. Also, after 9/11, willing pilots were trained by the TSA to carry weapons in the cockpits of commercial airliners. And presidents’ kids have armed secret service protection at their school. Don’t all of our children deserve the same protection?
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.