Ever since Betsy DeVos suggested the importance of guns in schools, albeit in case of a grizzly bear attack, pro-gun groups have been continuing their push to get rid of gun-free zones at schools and colleges.
That’s exactly what Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, proposed in a recent bill, ironically called the “Safe Students Act.”
“Gun-free school zones are ineffective. They make people less safe by inviting criminals into target-rich, no-risk environments,” said Massie. “Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.”
The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights all support the bill, of course.
“A bigger federal government can’t solve this problem,” he went on. “Weapons bans and gun-free zones are unconstitutional. They do not and cannot prevent criminals or the mentally ill from committing acts of violence. But they often prevent victims of such violence from protecting themselves.”
“Educators Demand Action”
Abbey Clements vehemently disagrees.
On December 14, 2012, Clements was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where Adam Lanza shot to death 20 children and six adults. Clements was one of the lucky ones, but that doesn’t mean she wishes she had had a gun.
“We’re not trained sharp shooters, we’re not trained first responders,” Clements said. “We are caregivers. … I’m sure every educator out there would say that we want school safety, but arming teachers is not the answer.”
Clements is among a growing number of educators, including other survivors of school shootings, who are speaking out about gun laws on the state and national level. To help coordinate their efforts, a new group, Educators Demand Action, an offshoot of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, just launched.
Gun-Free School Zones
The federal Gun-Free School Zones law was introduced by then-Senator Joe Biden, and was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The key provision of the law is that it prohibits an individual from knowingly possessing and discharging a firearm on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school grounds, unless a person is specifically authorized to do so by a state.
Trump had once said that as president, he would get rid of gun-free zones on his first day, but he didn’t do his homework. As a law signed by a president after being passed by Congress, the Gun-Free School Zones Act cannot be undone by executive order.
Neverthless, Educators Demand Action is watching closely to see if Trump, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, will try to follow through on his campaign promise to abolish gun-free zones that he once referred to as “bait” for a “sicko” who may attack a school.
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, there was a spate of schools rushing to introduce guns to their students.
In Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon in 2013 signed into law a measure that encouraged schools to teach gun safety to first-graders. In Maine, a bill was proposed requiring high schools to offer optional firearms courses for students. At Carver Middle School in Colorado City, middle schoolers were getting first-hand training in how to shoot a gun.
It took a week, but the National Rifle Association’s response to what happened at Sandy Hook, as expressed by its executive vice president and CEO, Wayne LaPierre, was not surprising: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Massie has introduced a bill at the federal level, but there’s plenty of activity going on at the state level.
Guns in Schools Is a Terrible Idea
Especially since Sandy Hook, the gun lobby has pushed legislation around the country that would permit civilians to carry guns into our elementary, middle and high schools. These bills are presented as a way to keep children safe, but in reality, they do just the opposite, since they put our young people at risk of unintentional shootings and conflict, but don’t decrease the risk of an active shooter.
That’s why teachers and school safety experts oppose these bills, and why Educators Demand Action, which supports guns in schools only if they are carried by trained security guards and police officers, is so important.
Allowing guns in school is simply counterintuitive to how I see my role as an educator: to raise students to be thoughtful, kind and questioning members of a society that we want to live in and represent to the rest of the world.
The job of a teacher is not to be prepared for an armed intruder. Carrying guns would definitely interfere with my ability to support and teach my students. My job is to teach, and if school security needs to be beefed up, that’s the job of trained security officers.
Teachers should not carry guns.