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Another State Allows Armed School Staff..sort of

June 1, 2018

We want to see things as black and white. Unfortunately, the laws allowing school staff to carry a firearm come in shades of gray. Let’s talk about the good news first.

Alabama will now allow more armed staff to protect schools.. well..sort of. The bad news is that only school administrators are included in the program, while teachers and other staff are not. A school that has a cop assigned to it, even part time, couldn’t have more armed staff. I couldn’t tell who would pay for the mandated training.

This was a program designed by politicians. In fact, most of the children in Alabama schools will be minutes away from an armed defender most of the time. As usual, when seconds count, the government mandated services are minutes away. Despite that glaring flaw, the politicians get to say they “did something to protect the children.” Like I said, shades of gray.

We have to clarify what we mean when we say children are protected at school. This is why definitions matter.

  • Are only police allowed to protect students? That means the school resource officer sitting at one end of the campus can be minutes away from an attack.
  • Is the school protected every minute that students are present. Students attend before school and after school activities. Events are often held on weekends. Are those students, staff, and families considered expendable?
  • Should we reclassify a state if a determined sheriff deputizes school staff so they may carry on school grounds? Do we expect every sheriff and police chief to do that? In fact, most students will remain unprotected.
  • Is the school board able to do what they consider necessary to protect students and staff? When does state regulation turn a “yes” into a “no”. Is that 5 hours of required training..or 500?
  • Are public schools disarmed while private schools can arm volunteer staff?

This is where I draw the line. Can a school board decide to have armed volunteer school staff on campus, yes or no. Are the state requirements so restrictive that the school board can’t find a sufficient number of volunteers, yes or no. I changed Louisiana and North Carolina to prohibited states since school boards are not allowed to approve armed staff. I’m sure I’ll revise the map again, so please comment as laws change.

Should there be any mandated training for school staff? The answer lies in the balance of competing harms. Lowering standards and increasing the number of selected and trained school staff might increase the risk of a negligent injury to a student. The good news is that we haven’t seen that happen. That theoretical concern is balanced by the certain risk of mass murders at school. We want more armed school staff until those risks are balanced. We have a long way to go.

On average, we’ve had about a dozen people killed in schools by mass murderers each year. That is fact, not theory. We’ve accumulated many thousands of man-years and woman-years of experience with armed school staff. Call that dozens of lifetimes of real world wisdom. We collect more experience with armed staff every day, and it never makes the news.

Our children need many more defenders, not fewer.





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