The public outcry over school shootings has remained at a fever pitch since the Dec. 14, 2012, tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Increased gun control has been on the minds of many, but South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard appears to have something else in mind. On Friday, Daugaard signed into law a bill that will allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom. Legal experts believe that this makes South Dakota the first U.S. state to allow teachers to carry firearms. Some states already allow armament, but not guns.
Guns in schools miles from emergency response
Policy experts assert that the prime reason such a gun law passed is that South Dakota is among the most rural states in the nation, and that numerous schools are many miles away from emergency response locations. Supporters thus view the bill as increased security for South Dakota’s children, yet opponents from the state school board and teachers associations claim that the measure was rushed and doesn’t not introduce safety, but more potential catastrophes.
Firearms not mandatory in South Dakota schools
The bill does not require that teachers carry a gun. In fact, the New York Times notes that it provides avenues through which South Dakota schools can use a separate security guard if preferred. Even that is not required, however. This right to choose is what Gov. Daugaard was looking for.
“I think it does provide the same safety precautions that a citizen expects when a law enforcement officer enters onto a premises,” said Daugaard.
Teachers with guns?
While many will point to the right to choose aspect of the South Dakota teachers with guns law as being reasonable, not enough media outlets appear to be considering what it might be like for teachers across the nation to have guns in class, in the even that such a law were to spread. How often do we hear of teachers who molest their students, give them drugs, engage in inappropriate sexual relationships or otherwise execute bad judgment?
Clearly, the background tests and screening currently given is not sufficient to make all prospective teachers safe for children. Introducing firearms and even some firearms safety courses is going to somehow change the fact that too many teachers and bad at their jobs and morally questionable individuals? Students could conceivably need armament to protect them from disgruntled, harried, underpaid teachers.
More likely to be hit by lightning
South Dakota hasn’t had any school shootings since 1961, and that was accidental, a .22 round fired as a sound effect during the rehearsal of a school play. Why the round used back then was live is certainly curious, but that isn’t the point. South Dakota seems to have a relative handle on school gun violence – why did it need the new teachers with guns law?
School shootings in general are still quite a rare phenomenon. Out of 75,600,000 school days from 2010 through 2012 in the 140,000 U.S. public schools, there have been 23 shootings. The odds of being struck by lightning are better.
Safety in relationships
School shootings in Sandy Hook or anywhere else are both tragic and senseless, but they are still freak occurrences. Arming teachers introduces potential risk into the classroom, risk that may not be completely eliminated by firearms training. The risk outweighs the reward. One New York Times reader suggests that such issues could be resolved without violence, should society take the time and care to do so. Once everyone is armed, there may be no going back.
“One time, years ago, I got between an armed student and another teacher he was upset with, who was hiding behind a closed door. I didn’t know the student was armed at the time (though I did know he was potentially violent) and just did what we were trained to do — talk to him. We had a pretty good relationship (built over several years), and I certainly no weapons. I used what I knew of him to ask him to stop. Which he did, only to quickly inform me of the weapon. Still can’t believe I didn’t faint. But the issue was resolved without violence.
I am not naive enough to think that this is the way to handle an armed and ill person in 2013. Times have changed. But I suspect that once we go the armed direction, there is probably no going back to the relationship direction. Once we rely on a gun to protect us, we won’t think we need the relationship.”