Teachers carrying guns are a mistake. Don’t do it KS legislators



March 28, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Do most Kansans really want teachers to be armed in classrooms?

Should an elementary student be able to see her teacher’s 9 mm pistol in a side holster as the teacher leans over to help with a math problem? How about a high school student knowing his English teacher has a Glock in a lock-box in the closet?

We all want our students to be safe in school. But there are better ways to do it than to arm our teachers.

A House insurance committee heard testimony from both sides Tuesday in Topeka. A bill — with no author names, so much for transparency —would allow school districts to authorize teachers to train beyond a concealed-carry license and have a gun in the classroom in case of a mass shooting.

Proponents, including Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, said arming teachers would prevent another tragedy such as the one where 17 people were killed Feb. 14 in Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.

Opponents, aided by hundreds of pieces of written testimony, emphasized teachers shouldn’t act as security officers in emergencies. They have enough on their hands throughout a school day.

The opponents are right. Too many things can go wrong with an armed teacher during the chaos of a mass shooting. Unless the teacher is a combat veteran or former law-enforcement professional, he or she will not have had nearly enough training to be ready for what could happen in a hallway or classroom.

Likewise, too many things can go wrong with a gun in a classroom even when there is no outside threat. Remember when state Rep. Willie Dove left a loaded gun in his desk in a committee meeting room in January 2017?

Stronger security is the better answer. The nation learned that firsthand in the past two months, when school security in Parkland failed to end the mass shooting and 17 died. A month later, a school resource officer in Great Mills, Md., needed only one minute to find and shoot an assailant just as he was shooting himself in the head. The boy’s former girlfriend was killed and another student was injured.

This bill shouldn’t be about having more guns in school, it should be about putting them in the hands of those with extensive training. It should be about putting them in the hands of those whose primary job is to protect children from those who would seek to hurt them. More resource officers and armed security are worth a conversation in many districts.

A section of the legislation defies logic. It would hold a school district negligent if it did not allow teachers to carry guns and a shooting occurred.

A district presumably knows what is best for its employees, students and parents, and shouldn’t be held liable in a mass shooting. Thankfully the bill’s supporters have said they would be willing to get rid of that provision if the bill gets out of committee. Please do.

Armed teachers are employed elsewhere in our country. Texas enacted a law — referenced in Tuesday’s committee hearing on the Kansas bill — that allows for a “marshal” teacher for every 400 students in a school.

But unlike the Texas law, the Kansas version doesn’t require background checks, psychological evaluations and active shooter training totaling 80 hours every two years. The House bill would require eight hours of training beyond a concealed carry license.

A Texas state representative told Politico that less than 50 districts have authorized the new marshals. There’s reason to think Kansas districts would also enact the law sparingly.

Another provision in the House bill could push parents to the point of pulling students out of school. Like Texas, the Kansas bill makes it a misdemeanor to disclose which teachers have guns at school. The logic is that a shooter with that information could target the teachers.