• 70°

Is arming teachers really the best answer?

It looks like the idea of arming teachers has gained some traction following the school shooting in Florida.

In the Mississippi Legislature, a House bill would let school boards create safety programs at schools that include letting teachers and school employees with training carry weapons.

Private schools, community colleges and public universities would also be able to authorize their employees to carry guns under the amendment to House Bill 1083, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary A Committee on a 7-4 party line vote, with majority Republicans all voting for and minority Democrats all voting against, The Associated Press reported.

“This is a common-sense way for schools to increase student safety, should their leadership deem it necessary to do so,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement Tuesday. “As I shared with President Trump on Monday at the White House, we must do all we can to protect our children. This is part of that effort.”

School safety should be everyone’s priority, but this approach seems misguided. If the expectation is that armed teachers will stop a gunman, then why not simply hire armed security?

Teachers have shown they are willing to die to protect their students, but that doesn’t mean they want a gun and the responsibility of stopping a madman on their campus.

“Teachers want to teach, they don’t want to be law enforcement,” said Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators, a teachers group with 14,000 members. “Our state is already facing a critical teacher shortage and I’m afraid this is going to only heighten our teacher shortage.”

According to the bill, school employees would have to take a course in safe gun handling from an instructor approved by the Department of Public Safety and would have to renew that training every two years, AP reported. But being trained in gun safety is not the same as being trained to respond to an active shooter.

Teachers are already overwhelmed with the responsibilities that come with the job. Adding guns to that mix and creating a life-or-death equation that must be solved in a split second is not what they are trained to do. And no amount of gun safety training will prepare them for facing down an armed gunman.

Would some teachers respond well in the heat of the moment and in a way that prevents loss of life? Of course. But some would not, no matter how much gun safety training they are offered. And consider this: even well-trained firearms owners have unintentional firings of their weapon. It even happens to range instructors. The more armed teachers we have in schools, the greater the likelihood of this happening.

If lawmakers feel that armed personnel is the solution, then they should provide funds for armed security guards who are trained not just on gun safety but on neutralizing a threat. And even that is not a guarantee.  A handful of sheriff’s deputies took positions outside the Florida school and did nothing while the gunman murdered students.

That fact alone underscores how difficult it is to respond appropriately in those types of situations. Facing an armed madman is not the same as shooting at a range. Law enforcement officers with specific training for the job sometimes struggle to take down a threat. How much more difficult would it be for teachers?

I won’t wade further into the pros and cons of adding more guns to the equation, but if that’s the direction school safety is going, a well-trained, armed security guard is a better option than allowing teachers to carry.

Some will argue that armed guards create an environment of fear and anxiety, but how much more will that be amplified if parents and students know teachers are carrying?

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.