This summer, Idaho’s legislature voted to allow teachers to bring firearms into classrooms in an attempt to dissuade school shootings. It was less than a week into this school year and an Idaho professor already accidentally shot himself in the foot in front of his students. The law doesn’t appear to be making things safer.
According to police, students at Idaho State University got a terrifying surprise when their professor, who was legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon as per the new law, accidentally discharged his weapon while it was in his pocket. Thankfully, no students were injured. Unfortunately for the professor, the bullet traveled straight into his foot. He was taken to the hospital and later released.
Students speaking with KIDK3 said that while no one other than the hapless professor was injured, they were concerned that the university didn’t bother to evacuate the building or even alert other students that there had been a shooting. After all, ISU had actually set up a messaging service which was supposed to alert students and faculty of dangers on campus – it wasn’t activated in the incident.
ISU officials defended their response by saying the shooting was an isolated one and didn’t warrant a notification.
“At this point it is believed to be an isolated incident,” Marketing and Communications Director Adrienne King told KIDK3. “We don’t have any reason to believe students or anybody else in our Bengal community has any reason to be concerned.”
So far, no criminal charges have been filed and police are treating it as an accident.
Idaho isn’t alone in pushing to arm its school teachers in the wake of shooting tragedies like at Sandy Hook elementary. They reason that if a shooter knows each classroom has a gun in it, he or she will think twice before entering the school. While commonsense may lead people to think that it could work, research has shown that it doesn’t.
Media Matters looked into it and found that even as arming teachers is becoming more popular, the support for that strategy is disintegrating:
There is no evidence that teachers carrying guns will prevent future school shooting incidents. According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings that took place in the United States over the last 30 years — including all school mass shootings — not a single one was stopped by an armed civilian. Mass shootings at schools have even occurred where schools have armed guards. During the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, an armed security guard twice exchanged fire with the gunmen, only to be overwhelmed by superior firepower. The Virginia Tech massacre, which left 32 dead and 17 wounded in 2007, occurred even though the school had an accredited police force with an emergency response team that operated “like a SWAT team.”
Meanwhile, as one unfortunate ISU professor clearly demonstrated, allowing faculty to bring guns onto campus sometimes put kids in harms way, rather than the other way around.
Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association has been instrumental in getting bills passed in Idaho and other states that do just that. Even more unsurprisingly, the NRA and its subsidiaries stand to profit considerably from the training programs they offer for the newly armed teachers. A group related to the NRA named The National School Shield Task Force offers the training sessions that teachers hoping to have guns in school are required by law to complete.
In a report they financed, they pushed for teachers to be the last line of defense against intruders.
The fourth option involves arming personnel already at the school for whom security is not their primary duty – for example, teachers, principals, or custodial staff.
The potential benefits to arming staff members are similar to those described above. An armed staff member has the potential to provide a visible deterrent to a potential active shooter and, in the worst case scenario, take action against an active threat. In addition to these benefits, an armed staff member already on payroll is a potentially less expensive option to schools and school districts with limited resources.
The biggest hurdle for gun-happy politicians hoping to look strong on school safety while also pleasing the NRA? Teachers. The National Education Association, largest teachers union in the United States, has strongly opposed the idea of making one of a teacher’s job responsibilities “shooting people.” Instead, they advocate for hiring trained resource officers to be stationed at schools who have the means and ability to stop shooters. Meanwhile, teachers can focus on, you know, teaching.
Somehow, that seems like a better option than having a classroom interrupted by gunfire while the professor is explaining algebra because he has a handgun in his pocket.