Trump Administration Considering Grants To Schools For Teachers Carrying Guns

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John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
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Word leaked Thursday via The New York Times that Education Secretary Betsey Devos was considering a Texas request to use federal education grants to arm teachers and staff. Of course, people have lots of concerns.

Will there be accidents? Will teachers lose control of their guns? Will students take them? Will insurance premiums go up? Have there been mass public shootings at schools that allow teachers to carry guns?

MSNBC and CNN were upset yesterday at the possibility. The consideration even prompted MSNBC contributor Yamiche Alcindor to bring race into the discussion. She worried: “If you start arming teachers … you could then start seeing statistics where potentially black students are getting shot.

Of course, no facts were offered to back up these fears. If you believe most of the media, it is a fringe idea that hasn’t really been tried except in a few strange, atypical places around the country.

Unfortunately, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and smaller news outlets across the country have come to this conclusion because they regularly find their facts on state gun laws by turning to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, founded to honor former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) who was wounded in at 2011 shooting.

“That means eight states — Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming — either allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry at schools or don’t otherwise prohibit them from doing so,” as the Washington Times cited the Giffords Center this week.

The Giffords Center says it is theoretically possible for teachers and staff to carry in Alaska, Hawaii, and Rhode Island, but in fact no schools in those states actually allow teachers or staff to carry. So they make it look like only five states have experience with teacher carry.

This understandably gives legislators pause. Most don’t like to risk lives on something that hasn’t been tested. After all, they don’t want to be seen as extremist. It also makes fearful speculation more plausible.

Even if things have worked out well in a few states, people will argue that we have simply been fortunate or that those states are somehow different. But if teacher carry works out across the country, that rejoinder becomes a lot less credible.

But the Giffords Center has let their strong views on gun control color the information they have given the media on gun laws in many states. Just yesterday, Gabby Giffords made it clear where her organization stood, saying arming teachers “recklessly puts American children in even more danger.”

She sent out tweets yesterday calling for voters to elect “gun safety champions that understand the foolishness of a plan like [arming teachers].”

In fact, thirty states technically allow for teacher carry, and twenty-one actually have school districts where guns are being carried on school property. Here are states (with links) that the Giffords Center missed that actually have at least some school districts with teachers carrying guns (only a few states keep a comprehensive list of schools that allow this and some schools are reticent to publicly announce their policy):

Alabama, New Hampshire, and Utah have the least restrictive rules. They allow any teacher or staffer with a concealed handgun permit to carry at school. With all of this experience, we don’t need to guess about safety.

Clark Aposhian, the senior member of Utah’s Concealed Firearm Review Board, estimates that roughly 5 percent of the state’s teachers carry permitted concealed handguns. Of the support staff, which includes janitors, librarians, secretaries and lunch staff, 10-to-12 percent also carry. The odds are high that at least one person will be able to stop an attacker.

There has never been a mass public shooting at a school that allowed concealed carry. That isn’t too surprising since there’s now a mountain of evidence that shooters avoid places where people have guns.

In diaries and other statements, killers such as Dylann Roof (Charleston, SC church in 2015) or James Holmes (Aurora, CO movie theater in 2012) have explicitly stated their desire to target a gun-free zone.

In 1996, a young Islamic State sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. The FBI recorded a telephone call in which he explained: “It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church.”

Do school insurance rates indicate increased risk? “From what I’ve seen in Utah, [school insurance] rates have not gone up because of guns being allowed,” says Curt Oda, former president of the Utah Association of Independent Insurance Agents. Nor has the Crime Prevention Research Center’s survey of five other states shown any increase in insurance costs.

Another common fear is that someone will take away a teacher’s gun and misuse it. But this has never happened. Excluding off-hours firearms training on school grounds, there has only ever been one accidental discharge involving a permit holder on K-12 property. This occurred at a staff restroom in Utah in 2014. The incident occurred outside of school hours, and the one person in the room received only a minor injury.

What we have learned from all this is that concealed carry poses no more risk in a school than in a grocery store, movie theater, or restaurant. Over 17.25 million Americans have a concealed handgun permit, and nobody knows whether the person next to them might have a gun until it is needed.

Understandably, reporters aren’t experts. But they misinform the public by uncritically relying on organizations such as the Gifford Center and Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. Presenting false information may end up killing lifesaving legislation that will protect our schools.

Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.