School board members in the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois heard from supporters and opponents of a measure to allow trained and vetted school staff to carry firearms as a first line of defense in case of an active assailant attack at one of the district’s twelve campuses. While the board isn’t actively considering arming staff at the moment, the issue is expected to come up at the state school board association’s meeting in weeks, and the school board wanted to hear from the community before making its recommendation.
Based on what they heard, they’re not likely to come out in support.
“I am uncomfortable with misuse of firearms,” said Robert Crowther, who has three grandchildren enrolled at Barrington High School. “I think that’s what we’re worried about here. Well trained people are important in situations where something comes up. I don’t think it has to be forced on every teacher. It’s crazy. If you’re not comfortable with a situation you shouldn’t be involved in it.”
Crowther said he is a military veteran and gun owner who knows how to use them. He wants to leave the use of firearms to the experts.
The good news for Mr. Crowther is that no teacher or staff member is forced to take part in any armed defense program. They’re all volunteers, and all of them have been vetted and trained. If those are his issues, he shouldn’t have any problems with the proposal once he actually has a chance to study it. There were others who spoke out against the measure, but only one individual voiced support for the idea.
“Nobody wants a gun in a school but if a bad guy has a gun, you’re better off with a good guy with a gun,” said Dan Juffernbruch, a resident who previously had children enrolled in the SD220. “There are teachers who use their bodies as human shields. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a gun if they needed it?”
Juffernbruch encouraged the board to vote in favor of the resolution. He said individual school districts should be able to make the decisions which are right for them. He sees advantages to armed school personnel.
If it’s just a numbers game, the school board is likely to come out against the idea of armed school staff. If they actually weigh the arguments instead of just counting noses, the proposal should earn their support. Even with school resource officers, a study from the Homeland Security Institute concluded that even with a school resource officer on campus, armed school staff can save lives. These staff members aren’t law enforcement. They’re not going to arrest students, or pull out a gun if kids start fighting in the classroom. They are armed to prevent an armed attacker from killing innocent children, period. Hundreds of school districts around the country have already adopted these programs, and not one of them has gone back and decided it was the wrong policy.
Hopefully in a few weeks the entire Illinois Association of School Boards will endorse the idea of armed school staff, and I’d encourage Illinois gun owners to reach out to their local school boards now to let them know how you feel. Attend a meeting if you can, but even an email is better than nothing at all.