Anti-gun activists bash school safety recommendations that call for armed presence on campus

AP Photo/David Goldman

How anti-gun are groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Students Demand Action? Enough that they’re objecting to a series of recommendations from the Arkansas School Safety Task Force put together by Gov. Asa Hutchinson because the experts have recommended that there be an armed presence on every school campus in the state.

The recommendation is just part of a proposed $50-million school safety grant that would also direct money to schools for security upgrades, expanding mental health access in schools, and establishing behavioral threat analysis teams in each school district, but it’s the armed presence in schools that has the gun control groups crying foul.

Both groups, who are a part of the Everytown for Gun Safety network, noticed an absence of policies that they say would prevent guns from entering Arkansas schools.

“Students deserve to learn without fearing for our lives, and that means real gun safety solutions, not more guns and more officers in our halls,” said Jayce Pollard, a volunteer with the Arkansas Students Demand Action chapter.

Anna Morshedi, a volunteer with the Arkansas Moms Demand Action chapter, said that “increasing the presence of armed personnel in schools does little to prevent gun violence” and that it would be another risk “to the wellbeing of students of color.”

The recommendations from the governor’s task force don’t explicitly talk about armed school staff members, but even the presence of school resource officers is a no-go for the anti-gun groups.

We can argue about whether or not armed security in schools actually prevents violent crime on campus, but if a student or stranger shows up at the school doors with murder on their mind there’s no doubt that the faster an armed response, the better. Having an SRO (or yes, a trained and vetted staff member) who’s willing and able to quickly respond to the first shots fired saves lives, but for the anti-gun activists in Arkansas that’s a risk they’re willing to let others take.

Next week, the Arkansas legislature will return to Little Rock for a special session, during which lawmakers will consider providing $50 million for a school safety grant.

This funding, the group said, could be used to support policies that can help keep guns out of schools— including secure firearm storage and threat assessment programs.

The threat assessment programs are already a part of the recommendations from the school safety task force, so what Everytown and its subsidiary Students Demand Action are really calling for is a new storage mandate for all gun owners; something that the Republican-led legislature isn’t likely to be interested in when they return for their special session next week.
It’s unclear whether the $50-million grant will even provide any funding to train teachers and staff to carry on campus, but some school districts across the state have already been doing this on their own for several years.
Clarksville superintendent, David Hopkins says it was after the Sandy Hook school shooting almost a decade ago that they knew they needed to do more to keep their students safe.

With state legislation and school board approval, the district was able to implement the commissioned school security program in 2013. They were one of the first districts to implement armed faculty and staff.

“The people we’ve selected to help us with this program have been really great people. They are intelligent, educated and they do well with training. I think we have a great model,” he said.
The district has around 20 staff members across their five campuses who conceal carry guns including Superintendent Hopkins. They also have one school resource officer for all their campuses. He says locally, the program has been well received and supported.
“In order to provide multiple people in each building that are armed and that are always going to be there, that redundancy is built into it, I feel like that you have to go out to your staff for that, just given the cost of having that many armed personnel on a campus,” he said.
It doesn’t sound like Clarksville’s school system has had any trouble finding staffers who are willing to volunteer, even though it requires a substantial time commitment since the district puts all armed staffers through training multiple times a year. Personally, I think these educators and school employees should be applauded for their actions, but if gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety want to demonize them instead that’s their right. They just shouldn’t expect to find many friendly ears and open doors at the state capitol next week when lawmakers get to work on their school safety package, which hopefully will provide funding to ensure an armed response to any potential school shooter who sets foot on a public school campus in the state.