After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the tiny Texas school district of Utopia worried about what would happen if a shooter attacked the campus, where fewer that 200 students attend classes. It takes 30 minutes for a sheriff’s deputy to reach the town, even in an emergency, and the district cannot afford to hire a police officer. In 2013, the school board allowed school employees to arm themselves, as long as they had a concealed carry weapon permit and the board's permission. Now, after the Uvalde shooting, more school districts are considering doing what Utopia did by making armed teachers a part of their security, the Washington Post reports. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the solution to school shootings lies in “hardening” schools, including allowing teachers and administrators to carry weapons. For residents of this small town, the Uvalde shooting drove home the need to be prepared. Arming school personnel is common sense, and a gun is merely “a tool,” not so different from a crescent wrench or a hammer or a laptop for a journalist, said Utopia Schools Superintendent Michael Derry. Even though parents do not know the identities of armed staffers, they put their faith in the educators who carry weapons to keep their children safe.
There is no good tally of the number of school districts that arm educators and other school staffers, people whose primary job is not school security. The practice is unheard of in larger districts that employ guards or police officers. It is still uncommon even in Texas, where the state permits teachers to carry firearms on campus with as little as four hours of training. The practice appears to be gaining as politicians on the right push it as a solution to stop school shooters. Laws in 29 states now permit people to carry guns into K-12 schools under some circumstances. For many proponents of gun restrictions, the notion of asking teachers to confront a shooter is unthinkable, with teachers and unions broadly rejecting proposals to arm educators. Groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, point out that even police officers, who have far more training than school staffers, more often than not miss their targets when they fire their weapons in emergencies. What, opponents ask, if a student got hold of a teacher’s gun? What if a teacher accidentally shot an innocent student? What if police mistook an armed teacher for a threat and shot that person? The RAND Corp. in 2020 reviewed existing research to try to determine whether arming teachers would make schools safer or more dangerous. Researchers concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support either proposition.