Gun lovers in the Arkansas legislature are spoiling to put more guns in classrooms at the earliest opportunity. Today, the Washington Post reports a complication — from insurance companies.
Kansas has a problem: It has a law allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom, but almost no schools are using it because insurance companies refuse to provide coverage if they do. As EMC Insurance, the largest insurer of schools in Kansas, explained in a letter to its agents, the company “has concluded that concealed handguns on school premises poses a heightened liability risk.”
Then came the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February, leading frustrated Republican legislators in Kansas to try forcing the issue with a bill banning “unfair, discriminatory” rates for schools that arm staff. The insurance industry held firm. Last month, the bill failed.
“I don’t think insurance companies are notorious anti-gun liberals,” said Mark Tallman, associate executive director for the Kansas Association of School Boards, “so we think they’ve got good reasons for not doing it.”
As proposals to arm teachers sweep across the nation, insurance companies are being forced to weigh the risks of these controversial plans. Some insurers are balking. Some are agreeing to provide policies but lamenting the lack of evidence about whether it makes schools safer — or increases the chances of people getting shot. Others are raising rates.
Well, if uncomfortable insurance companies are what it takes to stop bad legislation, I’ll take it. I prefer to think of all the other good reasons — from trained law officers who misfire in difficult situations; to innocent people mistakenly shot; to theft and misuse of guns brought into schools. And how to forget the Arkansas legislator who mistakenly “shot” a teacher during a school shooting drill?
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Such things actually underlie insurance industry concerns.
Insurers are always looking for ways to minimize risk. It’s why companies that cover schools send out notices about even small dangers such as the tripping hazards of extension cords or warnings about hanging classroom decorations from ceiling lights.
Adding trained police officers to schools is generally viewed favorably, industry officials say. But giving guns to school janitors or history teachers — even with some training — raises concerns.
“Putting in more resource officers — that’s additional security — we feel that makes it safer,” said Paul Marshall, of McGowan Program Administrators. “It’s different when you start pushing it to arming teachers, volunteers, voluntary security.”
Of note lately has been the presence of police officers in schools where the shooting occurred. Even when good and well-trained, they can’t be everywhere at once. Thus a brave teacher tackled a shooter last week in Indiana. How many armed guards are enough? Will every school become like an airport?
Perhaps reducing the number of guns is a strategy worth considering.
More likely the legislature will continue a preference for providing immunity for gun mishaps.