Pro-Gun Lawmakers Want to Arm Teachers, But There’s Little Evidence That These Programs Work

In 2020, as the US grappled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country experienced another crisis: gun violence was the leading cause of death among young Americans. Since the previous year, the number of gun-related deaths among U.S. under-20s has increased by 29.5 percent, which was twice the relative increase in gun deaths among the general U.S. population. But even with those alarming statistics on gun-related child deaths, pro-gun lawmakers are calling for more guns to be placed in schools, as a remedy for the country’s school crisis.

The tragic mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last week renewed calls for tougher gun control laws after 19 children and two teachers were killed and 17 others injured in the attack. But conservatives and gun lobbyists argue that the only way to solve the epidemic of mass shootings in the country is to put more guns in the hands of the public. Some have even called for teachers and school staff to be armed with their own firearms.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was one of the first Republican elected officials to call for educators to be armed after the Uvalde school shooting.

“We cannot stop bad people from doing bad things. We may be able to arm, prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly,” Paxton said during an appearance on Fox News. Former President Donald Trump, speaking at this year’s NRA convention on Friday amid severe setbacks in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, also called for “highly trained teachers to safely and discreetly hide firearms in schools.”

The idea of ​​training teachers, whose primary job is to teach students classes such as math and English, as an added security defense against potential school shooters is not new, and such training programs have been around in one form or another in many states for years.

There is also little evidence that arming school personnel actually makes schools safer. Rather, school safety advocates warn of the potential risks of encouraging teachers to carry guns in schools – increasing the number of guns in schools, even if they were put in the hands of responsible educators, could increase the likelihood of gun-related harm. enlarge . Studies have also shown a direct correlation between the presence of guns and increased gun violence.

Proposals to arm teachers and school staff have also not received much support from educators. A survey of more than 2,900 teachers across the country by a California State University researcher found that 95.3% of respondents believed that teachers should not carry guns in the classroom. The National Education Association, the largest union in the US representing 3 million educators, has also criticized suggestions to weaponize teachers as an antidote to America’s school shootings.

“Putting more guns in schools makes schools more dangerous and does not protect our students and educators from gun violence,” NEA President Becky Pringle told The Guardian. “We need less guns in schools, not more. Teachers should teach, not act as armed guards.”

Still, current debates about gun laws can only speed up legislation in states where teachers and other school personnel are already permitted — even encouraged — to carry guns in the classroom.

Hundreds of school workers are already armed in the US

There are 256 school marshals throughout Texas. A program to train teachers and allow them to carry firearms on school grounds was expanded under the Greg Abbott administration.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

In 2018, there were two high-profile school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas, in which at least a dozen people were killed or injured. school staff.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 100 laws permitting armed school teachers were introduced by local lawmakers in the three years since the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings. While most of the bills were not passed, more than a third of these bills were introduced in the wake of the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings. Both Florida and Texas are among the nine states where school personnel (other than security) are exempt from firearms bans on K-12 school grounds.

After the shooting at a Santa Fe school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott expanded the state’s school marshal program, providing educators and school administrators with firearms training and permits to carry their own guns on school grounds since 2013. There are currently about 256 school marshals in the state, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which oversees the program.

In 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to become president in 2024, signed a law allowing schools to arm their teachers. offices to train their staff in firearms.

According to the Florida Department of Education website, 45 of the state’s 67 counties have participated in the “guardians” program. Some have called on the state to expand the program after the shooting at a school in Uvalde last week.

These firearms training programs for school personnel were created in large part in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But so far, the effectiveness of these programs in deterring gun violence has not been proven, and school shootings continue at an alarming rate: more than There have been 2,600 more mass shootings since Sandy Hook.

There is no evidence to support the arguments of pro-gun lawmakers that training and equipping teachers with guns will make students safer. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Toledo and Ball State University assessed 18 years of U.S. school security measures — including placing more armed teachers in schools — and found no evidence of reduced gun violence.

Denise Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, called the policy of arming school staff “unwise.” In addition to substantial research linking gun accessibility and increased gun violence, firearms brought to school by teachers may be fired accidentally, the teachers who carry them may intentionally use them for unintended purposes, and, more likely, the weapons can end up in the hands of students,” Gottfredson told Reuters.

Studies show that more guns lead to more violence

A girl lays flowers at a makeshift monument.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has reignited discussions about arming teachers and staff.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The US is not the only country in the world where mass shootings have taken place, but it is unique in how often these mass shootings take place within its borders.

In his much-cited 2016 study, Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, analyzed data on global mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 and found that 31 percent of mass shooting perpetrators worldwide during that time were American.

After adjusting for variables, Lankford also found that the degree of gun ownership in a country correlated with the probability of mass shootings. When it comes to gun ownership, the U.S. is practically in a league of its own: The U.S. population makes up just less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but Americans account for about 45 percent of the world’s gun ownership. It is estimated that US citizens own a total of 393 million firearms – meaning there are more weapons in civilian hands than people.

Several other studies suggest that guns don’t actually deter crime and instead increase the likelihood of gun-related violence. In other words, more guns simply lead to more gun violence. For example, in a 2015 study, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University found that firearms attacks were 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns than in states with the fewest. There is also research suggesting a significant association between access to firearms in the home and the likelihood of residents being killed, compared to households without guns.

Research regarding firearms and young children paints an even bleaker picture. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks and publishes information about gun violence in the US, more than 650 minors have been killed by firearms so far this year, while more than 1,600 youth have suffered gun-related injuries.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that gun-related injuries were the leading cause of death for young Americans as of 2020, surpassing car accidents as the previous leading cause. Internationally, the number of children killed by firearms is 36.5 times higher in the US compared to other high-income countries such as Sweden, Austria and England.

But even with so much research and data pointing to various links between firearms access and gun violence, not much has changed in policy when it comes to U.S. gun laws. History shows that firearms legislation has only become more lax, even as public opinion overwhelmingly supports gun control legislation, which is arguably the biggest outlier of the US gun violence epidemic.

A holistic approach is needed to curb mass shootings, experts say

Looking at the evidence to date, it’s clear that a “hardening” of school security measures — focusing on surveillance, increasing police presence and arming school staff with firearms — is ineffective in curbing gun violence in American schools. In fact, those kinds of investments, which have already been the answer to previous school shootings, have so far been ineffective.

Studies such as the one from the University of Toledo show that schools face a multitude of problems when trying to keep students safe and that a multi-pronged approach that is not fixated on “piping up” schools is necessary if we are serious about school safety. want to improve.

“It’s not just weapons. It’s not just security,” Jagdish Khubchandani, a study co-author, told the Texas Tribune. “It’s a combination of problems, and if you have a patchy approach, you’ll never succeed.”

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report emphasizing the need to improve “school affiliation” among school-aged adolescents — essentially making students feel connected to their school community — as a way to improve student safety. Students who feel more connected to their school, the report suggests, were more likely to exhibit healthy behaviors and less likely to engage in violence.

Researchers and proponents of gun violence have long pushed for changes beyond guns and guards. Rather than arming teachers with weapons, providing support to schools so they can improve the emotional well-being of their students may be a better approach to solving the school shootings across the country.

Whatever the next big gun regulation debate may be, it’s clear that America’s old solutions to its gun problem haven’t worked — and won’t work.

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