SHOULD TEACHERS BE ARMED?
by Dr. Michael S. Brown
March 12, 2001
The latest wave of school attacks has focused new attention on the causes of
school violence. Large impersonal schools, bullying, violent entertainment, the
copy-cat effect from heavy news coverage, lack of parental involvement, misuse
of psychiatric drugs and access to guns head the long list of suspects.
None of these problems have easy or immediate answers. Proposed solutions
often involve giving up civil rights in return for a dubious promise of
increased safety and some are obvious overreactions to the statistically small
chances of a violent school attack.
One of the most controversial ideas is the arming of teachers. Proponents of
this concept point to the successful Israeli effort to reduce terrorist attacks
on schools by arming teachers and older students. There is also a positive
example to be found in the success of concealed carry laws that now allow
responsible adults to carry handguns for self defense in about thirty two
states. The field of civilian firearms training is thriving and some citizens,
including teachers, now receive more instruction than the average police
One example largely ignored by the media occurred at a high school in Pearl,
Mississippi. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used his handgun to stop the
murderous shooting rampage of a deranged student.1,
Unfortunately, the law forced Myrick to keep his weapon locked in his car off
school property. By the time he could retrieve it and return, two students were
The concept of giving school employees the responsibility of protecting
themselves and the children seems like an obvious way to solve the problem of
violent school attacks, but a closer look reveals many problems. Given the
current culture in American schools, arming our teachers would be a very tough
Teachers as a group tend to occupy the liberal end of the political spectrum,
which means many have a severe gun phobia. For example, they typically oppose
the idea of having armed guards stationed in schools, because they feel it sends
the wrong message to the children.
Imagine a teacher who has spent his or her career telling students that they
must never resort to violence, even in self-defense. They preach that we should
always rely on others to protect us from harm. Using weapons to defend the
school would be a tacit admission that this philosophy is wrong. Very few people
are able to deal with such a paradigm shift, especially if they feel it is being
imposed against their will.
Some teachers would understandably resign if forced to play a law enforcement
role that they never expected. A voluntary system would seem to be better, but
any teacher who openly volunteers for armed security training would receive
little support, if not outright condemnation, from their colleagues.
If guns are to play a role in the defense of our schools, it should be
through a simple extension of our current concealed carry laws. Schools are now
designated as gun free zones, where concealed carry permits do not apply. If an
exception were made for permit holders, a small number of teachers would choose
to arm themselves voluntarily.
Teachers, as a whole, are a very responsible people. The few who choose to
carry would probably seek out the best available training and conduct themselves
in exemplary fashion. They would also discretely follow a "don't ask, don't
tell" policy. Nobody would know which teachers, if any, might be armed.
This is an important concept learned from experience with permits in the general
population. It is not necessary for a large percentage of people to be armed in
order to provide a significant deterrent effect.
It is natural to worry that this uncertainty might negatively effect the way
that a child feels about their teacher, but it's likely that a child will never
believe their teacher is the one who is armed. They may speculate that the
Assistant Principal or the football coach carries a gun to deal with violent
attacks, but they will never know for sure. It might even be advantageous to
promote rumors that the faculty is particularly enthusiastic about concealed
Unbalanced teens who are planning an attack will be deterred for two simple
reasons. First, they could get killed. But for those who are already planning to
die, the prospect of having their carefully planned slaughter disrupted would be
daunting. Since they already feel that their life has been a failure, the one
thing that they fear most is to fail in their final attempt to achieve a sick
form of immortality.
It is unlikely that many teachers would participate if the laws were changed
to allow them to defend themselves and their students. Fortunately, this concept
does not depend on a high participation rate for success. Simply changing the
policy from "this school is a gun free zone" to "faculty may be
armed" would immediately reduce the chances of a violent attack.
In theory, at least, this proposal is easy, cheap and safe. Individual
participation is strictly voluntary, no money must be spent and no rights need
be sacrificed. The primary obstacles are political. Police chiefs and school
security officials will fight to protect their turf. Liberal teachers will fight
to protect their pacifist ideology. There will also be resistance from the hard
core anti-gun lobby which will never admit the deadly results of the gun-free
zones they have created.
Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun
Laws at: http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/DSGL.
You can also read other articles from Dr. Brown at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Brown.