Saturday, October 07, 2006

Packing Heat: Should We Arm Teachers?

According to this Tuesday report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a Wisconsin state legislator has proposed arming teachers with firearms to help keep kids safe in the classroom:

A state lawmaker, worried about a recent string of deadly school shootings, suggested arming teachers, principals and other school personnel as a safety measure and a deterrent.

It might not be politically correct, but it has worked effectively in other countries, Republican Rep. Frank Lasee said Wednesday.

"To make our schools safe for our students to learn, all options should be on the table," he said. "Israel and Thailand have well-trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm. It can work in Wisconsin."

In Thailand, where officials have been waging a bloody fight with Muslim separatists for the last two years, some teachers carry weapons for self defense as they are viewed as part of the government. In Israel, teachers are not allowed to carry weapons in the school, but security guards at the entrances are armed.

Lasee said he planned to introduce legislation that would allow school personnel to carry concealed weapons. He stressed that it would hinge on school staff members getting strict training on the use of the weapons, and he acknowledged he would have to work around a federal law that bans guns on school grounds.

The director of school safety for Milwaukee Public Schools, Pete Pochowski, opposed the idea.

"Statistically, the safest place for a child to be is in school," Pochowski said. "We have problems in our schools, but not to the point where we need to arm our teachers and principals."

Last week, a 15-year-old Wisconsin student was arrested in the shooting death of Weston Schools Principal John Klang. The criminal complaint said the teen brought guns to school to confront students, teachers and the principal.

I've thought about this issue quite a bit before -- the frequency of American schoolhouse shootings have readily occasioned such philosophizing. There's a bit of beefy, testosterone-pumped cowboy in me who'd love to be able to pack the heat. I'm no stranger to firearms -- my Dad always kept guns around the house -- but I don't own any today. I also doubt that most teachers, having been around enough of them, have the personal constitution to wield a firearm in an emergency. Who knows?

I first got
the hat tip to this topic over at Ann Althouse's page. She posted the response from one of her commentators:

N]o one has brought up Beslan, or the fact that busted terrorist cells were found to have the plans to NJ schools.

We have more to worry about than the random crazy adult or disaffected kid with a gun. Terrorists know that schools are soft targets and have already targetted them. What are we doing to harden the targets?

I think teachers with concealed carry permits should be allowed to bring their guns to school. This is far different from requiring teachers to get hand gun training!...

School security is a huge issue. For teachers who are comfortable with guns, having their weapons available will make their job of protecting their students easier for them.
Well, "teachers who are comfortable with guns...." I'm still skeptical about the proposal. I'd like to see policeman patrolling the halls on campus first. I've had on at least two occasions crazed streetwalkers enter my classroom. I had to escort a weird psycho out of my class one of these times -- and my body had gotten into the fight or flight mode, and since I had students under my charge, I obviously would have had to fight.

My wife and I have talked about this -- our biggest fear is that I might be attacked by a disgruntled former student (a San Diego State graduate student murdered two members of his thesis committee back in the 1990s, so there's plenty of scenarios where college faculty are at risk).

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