The Ohio State Supreme Court is currently weighing a challenge to the armed school staff program in the Madison school district, in a case brought by several parents with the help of Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety. The plaintiffs claim that under Ohio law, any armed teachers or staffers have to undergo the same training as peace officers in the state before they can legally carry, and they actually managed to get a state appellate court to go along with the argument.
Ohio’s Attorney General has weighed in on the side of the school district, arguing that the section of the law cited by Everytown’s attorneys don’t apply to teachers or staffers who choose to be armed, while noting that every school district in the state vets and provides training for every staffer who volunteers to serve as a first line of defense against an attack on school grounds.
While the state Supreme Court considers the case, anti-gun activists are now taking their arguments to the court of public opinion. In a new piece at the Cincinnati Inquirer, Moms Demand Action volunteer and teacher Sara DeMuch argues that armed school staff are more likely to create “gun violence” than they are in stopping it.
Under current law, teachers and school staff must undergo 700 hours of peace officer training before carrying a gun at school. No amount of training makes it safe for teachers to carry guns in schools, but a bill moving through the legislature, SB 317, would exempt teachers and school staff from this training requirement, worsening an already-dangerous situation.
DeMuch’s column is long on rhetoric, but awfully short on facts. First, it’s unclear whether the state law that she cites actually requires teachers and school staff to undergo 700 hours of peace officer training before they can carry. In fact, that dispute is the very basis of the lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court; a case which DeMuch only briefly refers to in her column.
As of February 2019, at least 43 school districts across the state had adopted armed school staff policies, but DeMuch doesn’t acknowledge that there have been no issues with armed school staffers in any of the districts that have put the policies in place. Instead, she makes vague and unsubstantiated claims about the dangerousness of allowing trained and vetted staffers to carry.
Research has shown time and again that arming teachers isn’t effective in reducing gun violence but actually increases the risk of gun violence in schools. A teacher’s gun is more likely to fall into the hands of a student or discharge unintentionally than it is to fend off a school shooter.
What research shows this? DeMuch doesn’t say. If this were a classroom essay handed in by one of her students, DeMuch would take points off for not providing any evidence for her assertions, but apparently the editorial board of the Inquirer grades on a curve.
It’s unrealistic to expect a teacher in a high stress situation to not only protect their class and their students but also be responsible for taking out a school shooter. The majority of shooters have a connection to the school, so not only are you asking a teacher to shoot someone, you’re also asking them to possibly shoot a former or current student.
Yes, that’s true, but the same could be said of school resource officers who serve on campus and have gotten to know the students under their care. What DeMuch is suggesting is that if a current or former student shows up on campus and starts shooting, students and staff should have to wait for outside law enforcement to respond and eliminate the threat. As horrible as it might be for an armed school staffer to have to engage a student that they know who’s shooting up the school, the alternative of waiting helplessly for authorities to arrive is even more horrific to think about.
DeMuch argues that there are alternative ways to prevent school shootings, including red flag laws that would allow for firearms to be seized from someone that a court has determined is a threat to themselves or others. Red flag laws have their own issues that we’ve discussed on many occasions in the past, but even if you’re a fan of the measures (I’m not), they offer no guarantee of preventing a school shooting or even identifying those who are actually planning on committing a mass murder.
DeMuch concludes her column with a pivot to another political talking point and demands that Ohioans vote out lawmakers who support the idea of armed and trained school staff when they cast their votes on Election Day. That’s the real goal of DeMuch; replacing a legislature that supports not only protecting students from armed assailants but supports the right of the people to keep and bear arms. As a rhetorical exercise, I give DeMuch’s column a “D,” but as an actual argument against Ohio’s armed school staffers, it deserves an “F.”