Principals' Perspective on Armed Teachers Ignores the Matter of Choice

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Every time there's a mass shooting at a school, I can't help but get angry because I know that the schools are gun-free zones. People cannot lawfully carry a firearm there, and while that has never stopped a mass murderer from slaughtering the innocent, it does stop good, decent, law-abiding folks from carrying a firearm for self-defense.


And since schools are where we send our children, this means there's almost no one to protect our kids.

Sure, school resource officers exist, but as we saw in Parkland, if they don't actually react to the shooting, everyone else is screwed.

It's why I've advocated for armed teachers for years now. It's not so much that I expect teachers to risk their lives for our kids, though we have numerous stories of teachers doing just that during mass murders. It's that I expect them to protect themselves with guns so that they'll protect the children by extension.

Following Nashville, we've seen renewed debate over the topic, and a lot of teachers are adamantly against it. 

At Education Week, they spoke with two principals to get divergent takes on the topic.

Supporters of arming school employees, including school leaders who’ve adopted this policy, argue that armed staff could respond to an active shooter within seconds, compared to the time it takes for law enforcement to reach the school. The difference between seconds and minutes could literally save lives, advocates argue.

But opponents say arming teachers would create more problems rather than solve for safer schools. Educators who oppose the idea don’t want the responsibility of carrying a secure firearm into their classrooms on top of their already demanding jobs. There’s also little empirical evidence that armed educators would prevent a violent incident like a shooting in school.

Andy McGill, an assistant principal at the rural West Liberty-Salem High school in Ohio, which allows school employees to carry a gun on campus, doesn’t want teachers at his school to be armed.

“Teachers are wired and programmed to work with kids, to reason with kids, even to negotiate with kids,” McGill said in the video interview above with Education Week. “I would never want my teacher to have to negotiate with somebody that has a gun because there probably will be hesitation, and that just sounds like very a bad idea.”


OK, this one kind of confuses me.

No one is suggesting that we legalize student carry at K-12 schools. That's not on anyone's docket, so why would allowing teachers to be armed somehow translate to them having to negotiate with someone who has a gun? That makes absolutely no sense. If they find themselves in that position, it'll be because a student has brought a gun on campus, which is a violation of the law. The teacher having a gun, however, means they can negotiate from more of a position of strength. They know that they have the means to defend themselves if the negotiation turns ugly.

Moving on...

In a 2022 survey conducted by the research organization RAND Corp., 54 percent of educators polled said that having teachers carry guns to school would make schools “less safe,” while 20 percent believed this move would make schools “more safe.” All the major teacher, principal, school employee, and school security organizations oppose guns in schools, except when carried by a police or security officer.

Still, attitudes toward arming educators have evolved over the last few years, with strong support from some Republican legislators. Some supporters say the policy is useful for private or charter schools that don’t have the funds to pay the annual salary of a school resource officer.


I find it amusing how educators are essentially saying they can't be trusted with guns, but they should be trusted with educating our young people. Keep in mind that if most educators say allowing themselves or their colleagues to carry guns makes everyone less safe, they're saying they can't be trusted. This is an important point to remember when we also have a lot of teachers trying to pretend they're martyrs who should be glorified by the public because of their jobs.

But here's the thing that keeps being missed in this discussion: Choice.

If someone doesn't trust themselves with a gun, that's fine. Don't carry one. No one is saying every teacher should carry a firearm. Not every person in society should carry one, even if they're lawfully permitted to do so. It's not something everyone wants to do and some people wouldn't be able to act if they needed to. Such a person should opt to not carry a gun.

The issue is that these educators want to make the decision for everyone else.

Not everyone agrees, however.

Elizabeth Brown, the principal of Ocali Charter High School in Ocala, Fla., has allowed two trained members of her staff, known as “guardians,” to carry a concealed gun on campus, in accordance with the state’s Guardian Program. (The Florida program is named after Chris Hixon, Aaron Feis, and Scott Beigel, the educators who were killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.)

“No one knows who they are, they are entrenched with our students day after day after day. I feel just as safe with them on campus [as having SROs],” Brown said in the video interview posted above.


This is how it should be.

If a teacher is known to have a gun, they are a potential target for a mass murderer. Keeping their identity secret is absolutely essential if you're going to go that route. They can also respond to a threat if need be because, well, they're teachers. They can mostly go where they want to go, particularly during a horrific situation.

My issue is that there are only two teachers, but I have no idea how big that particular school actually is. I know Ocala pretty well, but a charter school is a different animal entirely.

But then again, there is the issue of choice. That might have been the only two interested.

Yet the issue of choice tends to be lost in the debates over armed teachers. Educators act like the decision is being taken from them entirely, that they'll be forced to wear a gun belt like a police officer. They act as if they should have a say over what their colleagues can and can't do as well. Neither of these is accurate, and I'm frankly sick of seeing them.

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