It’s been roughly five months since 14 high school students and three staff members were shot and killed in their school in Parkland, Fla. Since then, states around the country have turned their attention to preventing gun violence in schools. While 16 states have passed gun violence prevention bills that will undoubtedly save lives, policymakers in Arkansas are considering a different ap proach.
After the Parkland shooting, Governor Hutchinson formed the School Safety Commission to study a broad range of school safety topics. The commission was charged with providing an initial report and recommendations to the governor by July 1 and a final report of findings and recommendations by Nov. 30. The legislature also tasked the Joint Performance Review Committee with providing recommendations for a legislative package to the full legislature in advance of the 2019 legislative session.
Unfortunately, the initial report from the governor’s commission didn’t recommend following the lead of the 16 states that have passed gun violence prevention bills over the past few months. Instead, the members recommend that no Arkansas campus should ever be without an armed presence when staff and children are there and they endorsed the dubious practice of arming teachers and other school staff.
Allowing teachers to be armed around our children ignores an overwhelming amount of research that shows having access to a gun increases the risks of gun violence posed to children. While we may think children won’t access guns or don’t know where adults keep them, they do. The bottom line is that there is no research to show that arming educators will protect schools.
Instead of pursuing shortsighted policies like arming teachers, we should be listening to the experts. School safety and education experts, including teachers, school resource officers and law enforcement organizations, oppose arming teachers and school staff. In fact, the two largest organizations of educations professionals — the National Education Association and the American Federations of Teachers — are against allowing guns in schools, a position both organizations reiterated after the Parkland shooting.
Educators aren’t the only ones voicing opposition to this dangerous policy. Law enforcement organizations have also taken a stand against arming educators, recognizing that doing so actually increases the risk to children. On the topic of arming teachers, the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents sheriffs and police chiefs across the country, has said, “The more guns that are coming into the equation, the more volatile and the more risk there is of somebody getting hurt.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Arming teachers is a farce that allows us to feel like we’ve done something about gun violence in schools when we’ve really just amplified the risks to children. Arming teachers enables us to pass the buck without considering real change. It’s like we’re saying, “Here, teachers, you deal with this.” Our children and their teachers deserve better.
What we should be doing is keeping guns from getting into the wrong hands to begin with, because if someone intent on doing harm is able to get on school grounds with a gun, we’ve already failed our children.
Change isn’t always easy. And, true change requires real leadership. If members of the Joint Performance Review Committee and School Safety Commission want to provide real leadership to make our schools safer, they should focus on what experts say and what research shows. Neither point to arming teachers as the solution.
Eve Jorgensen is the volunteer leader with the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.