Back to School: Lock and Load

Pencils. Paper. Books. Guns.

Arming teachers is a wild risk for everyone, including gun rights' advocates, who will have much to answer for when one of these programs goes wrong.

Consider: According to a 2004 joint report issued by the Secret Service and Department of Education, the risk of your child being killed in a school shooting is 1 in 1 million.

"To put the problem of targeted school-based attacks in context, from 1993 to 1997, the odds that a child in grades 9-12 would be threatened or injured with a weapon in school were 7 to 8 percent, or 1 in 13 or 14; the odds of getting into a physical fight at school were 15 percent, or 1 in 7. In contrast, the odds that a child would die in school-by homicide or suicide-are, fortunately, no greater than 1 in 1 million."

Today those odds may be slightly different, but consider what happens to those odds when you add more guns.

For starters, there's the increased potential for accidents. Even experienced gun safety instructors make mistakes (read: accidentally shoots a student). This cop famously shot himself in the foot during a gun safety demonstration in a classroom. We live in a litigious culture, so we need to factor the resulting lawsuits when things don't go as planned. Then there's the cost of arming and training teachers. The insurance premiums. And what about the politicization of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin? Imagine that, but in the classroom.

Despite claims to the contrary, no correlation can be drawn between school shootings prevention and arming teachers; the probability of a school shooting is low without armed teachers, so how will proponents measure success? Also, consider Columbine, where armed guards made little to no difference in preventing or slowing down Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. So, exactly what is gained by putting greater strain on teachers?

Then there's the matter of educational priorities. Is the United States of America a country where guns come before books? Arming teachers represents a major step in advancing our cultural arms escalation. Consider: Teachers aren't "supposed to be" soldiers or law enforcement officers. They're not "supposed to be" Wyatt Earp. They are supposed to be scientists, philosophers, musicians, or artists. They are supposed to provide an atmosphere for creativity and learning so that the next generation can do better for their children than we've done for ours. They are supposed to teach conflict resolution that doesn't involve intimidation and violence, and lead by example. Children are supposed to learn that reason has a seat at the table of ideas also. If we abandon these ideals, what's left?

Clarksville, Ark., is at the center of a debate just like this. For now, students there can leave their flak jackets at home.

Teachers and teachers' unions fought to prevent arming its teachers last July. Legislators thought they'd found a workaround and sought to cram the program down teachers' throats anyway. They cited a little known law that allows licensed armed security guards on school grounds, but the Attorney General weighed in later, saying public school districts didn't qualify as "guard companies" eligible to be licensed armed guards.  The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies agreed and voted to suspend school district employees' security licenses. For now, teachers in Clarksville remain unarmed.

To be clear: The law in Arkansas is unchanged. Law enforcement and private security personnel may continue to carry weapons on public school grounds. Students are no less safe than they were before, and far safer than they might have been otherwise; teachers may not serve as armed security officers.

We all want an end to school shootings. We all want our children to receive the best education possible. Leaving guns at home is a good start for a calm learning environment at school. Letting teachers do what they do best is even better. Let them teach.

If you are passionate about gun sense in America, visit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-partisan grassroots movement of American mothers demanding common-sense gun reforms from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions.

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