Just as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., renewed calls for stricter gun laws, it has also spurred a wave of advocates from the other side, many of whom say that guns are not the problem but a potential solution. State legislators around the country have endorsed the idea of allowing or even requiring school employees to carry firearms as a way to prevent future mass murders. Several lawmakers have said they plan to introduce bills to that effect.
We asked HuffPost readers in some of the states where this idea has received political support -- among them Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota -- how they feel about it. We heard from an impressive number of current and former teachers, administrators and other school employees. Many of them voiced alarm at the idea of putting guns in faculty hands, but more than a few had words of encouragement.
The responses below are from our readers in Missouri, where state Rep. Mike Kelley (R) introduced a bill this week that would allow public school teachers with concealed-weapon permits to bring guns to work.
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From a reader in Silex, MO:
My father worked as a teacher in Missouri for over 26 years. We were talking this morning and he was against carrying guns in the classroom. The chance of a gun being used by the wrong person or in the wrong manner is too great. He suggested placing steel doors on every classroom that would automatically be locked by a key or switch in the main office, or at several substations. After a lockdown is performed, an announcement would be made informing the school that a lockdown was in effect.
From a reader in Thayer, MO who says he has experience with both firearms and education:
I taught high school in rural Missouri for seven years before quitting the teaching profession to enter the business world. I also grew up with guns in our home as a child. My parents grew up in the Depression and hunting wild game was necessary for survival in the Ozarks. I’ve always had guns in my home for hunting (and self-defense I suppose, though that is of secondary importance).
I can emphatically state, however comfortable I may be around guns, that I would not want to teach with a firearm strapped to my side. That weapon would be a constant message to my students that they were not safe without a gun in the room. The arming of civilians is a knee-jerk reaction to the latest massacre we've had to endure, but it is not the solution to our problem.
A reader who says she was a teacher for 45 years, and retired this past summer, told us:
I am totally opposed to teachers and/or staff carrying guns in schools! There is just too great a possibility of accidents, thefts by students, and a plethora of other mistakes being made in such a situation. Teachers are already doing so many other jobs in addition to teaching -- parenting, counseling, nursing, you name it. Teachers should not become policemen as well!
A reader who says he has a master's in teaching offered a measured response:
I did my student teaching in an inner city high school with a reputation for violence and gang activity. I am not so sure that me carrying a concealed weapon in the classroom would not have escalated confrontations from some of those students. In that situation there was already an armed officer in the school at all times and I believe that accomplished the same goal of providing a deterrent.
Another reader and self-identified "educator" raised a simple yet sobering question:
If teachers have computers, purses, wallets and cellular phones stolen from them, how will they keep up with a firearm?
A reader who tells us she's a retired teacher, with a daughter now working as a special ed instructor, brought up logistical concerns:
We would have to keep them in locked drawers with ammunition in a separate drawer. A shooter would come in with guns loaded and ready to fire. Do we ask him to hold on while we obtain the gun and bullets?
And a high school teacher from Ballwin, MO echoed these concerns and pointed out that there are other responses available:
Everything I take to school -- my keys, my laptop, any classroom supplies or food -- is accessible to students if they have a mind to take something, and bringing more guns to school would increase the amount of gun violence, not stop it. There are so many other ways to ensure the safety of our children and schools: ban assault weapons, require background checks for purchasing any weapon, hire police officers to patrol schools.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.