Missouri teachers will soon have the right — if they want it — to carry guns into the classroom.
Lawmakers voted last week to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation that creates a training program for teachers to carry guns in schools.
Following the vote, district officials and leaders in law enforcement touted the new law as another tool to prevent a school in St. Joseph from becoming the next Sandy Hook.
However, those who walk the halls every day remain skeptical about enlisting teachers in the fight against school shooters.
Todd Brockett teaches at Robidoux Middle School and leads St. Joseph’s chapter of the National Education Association.
Mr. Brockett said that while he does not oppose the new law, he has questions about how it would work. He said teachers needed more information about the training that would be made available, how armed teachers should react in the case of an emergency, and if teachers would be expected to carry their firearms at all times or store them in a central location, among other topics.
“We just passed a law and now we need to get some clarification,” Mr. Brockett said. “I know the public is desperate to get some kind of quick way of doing this and it’s difficult for law enforcement because they don’t have the resources to put someone in every room, but we need some clarification. Our training was for education, not law enforcement.”
Sarah Hardin shares Mr. Brockett’s concerns about training.
Ms. Hardin works as a deputy for the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department, for which she serves as the school resource officer in the Mid-Buchanan R-V School District.
She said that while she had not had a chance to review the specifics of the new law, her initial concerns would focus on the level of training required for teachers. For example, she said the basic training required to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon was insufficient to prepare someone to deal with an active shooter situation.
The scenario could be tougher in small communities where teachers may have had multiple generations of the same family in class. Ms. Hardin mentioned a potential scenario where a teacher could be faced with an armed student whose parents they know well. Law enforcement officers are trained to detach themselves from the situation and respond with the appropriate level of force, but a teacher without such crisis training might hesitate.
The idea of teachers carrying guns could also complicate matters when law enforcement arrives on the scene. If the shooter is an adult, law enforcement could have trouble distinguishing a protective teacher from a dangerous shooter.
“Conceal and carry is great when you’re defending yourself, but when law enforcement arrives and they have to figure out who is the shooter and who is defending themselves, it becomes more difficult,” Ms. Hardin said. “In that situation, I’m asking everyone to get on the ground and drop their guns. If someone doesn’t comply or turns their gun toward me, I have to respond.”
Ms. Hardin and Mr. Brockett agree that the very idea of teachers carrying guns could deter people from attempting a shooting in the first place.
“If (a shooter) is afraid of having someone there with a gun, it might make them think twice,” Mr. Brockett said. “It’s a concentrated, easy target, so you want to do something, but they need to put some more thought into this.”
Ms. Hardin suggested that if school districts wanted to train employees to carry a gun in case of emergency, janitors could be a better candidate than teachers. Most shooters have historically focused on students, teachers and school administration as targets, which means a janitor might fly under the shooter’s radar in such a situation.
“I agree with people looking into ways of making the response faster and reducing the loss of life, but I don’t know if the teacher is the best person to have the gun,” Ms. Hardin said.