As the recent school shootings have raised serious concerns over gun laws and student safety, lawmakers are considering measures to arm teachers or hire military and police veterans as school guards.
Alabama lawmakers have pushed forward a bill that would allow for some teachers to have firearms on K-12 school properties. The bill, HB 435, was passed on March 15 with a 5-4 vote in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
The bill now has the potential to go to a floor vote sometime in the next few weeks. Its sponsor, Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth, says arming certain school faculty would not directly affect state or local funding. The bill would also require communication between the schools and their local law enforcement and civil immunity, according to Ainsworth.
Ainsworth says this bill is “common sense,” when it comes to establishing the protection of students.
U.S. Army veteran Chad Jordan says he does not believe arming teachers is the answer.
“The most recent school shooting in Florida shows that even an experienced person has a hard time reacting to a high stress situation,” he says. “So, you can only imagine a teacher not having as much training or hours in using a weapon being put in that kind of a situation.”
Another question raised was this: What if a child were to gain access to a gun kept in a teacher’s classroom?
Jordan compared keeping a gun in a classroom or on a school campus to keeping a gun in a home. If it is not properly handled or kept out of irresponsible hands, the consequences could be fatal.
“It’s just like having a weapon at home and it being unsecured and a child being able to get to it,” he says. “They’ll hurt someone or hurt themselves. It’s the same thing that can be introduced in schools. Whenever you introduce something that’s not a natural part of the environment, you’re going to have issues.”
However, he says the better, and more realistic, option would be to hire trained officers and veterans, who have the experience, to work as guards on school grounds, as well as installing metal detectors in every school.
“At least [veterans and officers] have training, have probably been in situations where they had to react,” Jordan says. “They’ve got things like muscle memory with these weapons.”
Jordan notes that while not every officer or veteran has been in a situation that required them to react with a firearm, their chances of responding quickly and accurately are better than that of a teacher or faculty member.
In Virginia, a Republican Senate candidate, Corey Stewart, is already taking action to defend the state’s public schools.
“Prince William County will be the first [county] in Virginia to place retired police officers in every single one of our schools,” he says. “We [also] need authorization from the General Assembly to bring military veterans into our schools to protect our kids.”
Cesar Ochoa, a Florida International University student, agrees with these approaches.
“I think they should hire teachers with gun licenses, or maybe vets,” Ochoa says. “We have a lot of veterans that need a job, and this can help them out too and help them get back on their feet…but whoever gets hired should also be mentally stable.”
Others say weapons should be kept away from school campuses altogether.
“As a teacher, my job is to educate,” says Tatana Todd, a Virginia elementary and middle school teacher. “I cannot believe that I would have the capacity to shoot a gun at a child, one who I may have had in my class and still have to deal with the fearful children in my classroom.”
Todd says that having guns in the classroom would create such fear within students that the trust built between them and their teachers would be destroyed.
“Can you imagine the fear that the children would have in their school?” she asks. “‘Don’t mess with Mrs. Todd. She shot someone.’ My hope is to disarm or reason, not to shoot.”