Jarod Bormann works as a teacher in a rural area of Iowa with so many sporting-gun enthusiasts that his students are granted three excused days per year to deer hunt. Bormann is comfortable around guns, having hunted in high school, but earlier this week he took to Facebook and to his blog to voice his opposition to the latest argument to emerge from the Newtown, Conn. shooting: that teachers should carry weapons in schools.
"I was really blown away that the concept of the idea would even be brought up," Bormann told The Huffington Post. "If there was a need for that, then we're not doing our job as an educational staff in trying to create the environment we need to, for our students, an environment that listens."
Following last week's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, at least five states, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon, have outlined plans for legislation that would allow faculty members to carry guns in schools. Earlier this week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) argued the arming of teachers is a discussion worth having.
But many who work in education are not taking this discussion lightly. They point to a laundry list of problems associated with teachers and guns that goes beyond basic safety concerns. For some, the issue conflicts with their own values system and distracts from other ways to curb violence in schools before it begins.
"It’s the most absurd idea I've ever heard," said Garret Virchick, a high school teacher of 25 years from Boston. "We went into teaching because at some level, we all care about kids and we're caregivers."
Carrying a weapon in school, Virchick said, goes against why he went into teaching in the first place. He argued that a focus on guns ignores other factors in school violence, such as mental health screening and counseling.
"In our latest union contract, we did get a promise of more social workers in our schools," Virchick said. "That's the conversation that's going on amongst teachers ... We need more of these support services for schools and for our students."
Wally Linebarger, an art teacher for 30 years in Texas and New York, has experienced violence first hand in school, and outside it, but he said he'd never want guns in classrooms. Linebarger was held at gunpoint twice during robberies, and on two separate occasions he had students pull knives on him (he talked the students down without injury).
"I wanted to educate them about how not to use violence. That was my goal," Linebarger said, adding that most teachers he knows are pacifists.
The potentially disastrous result of a student getting his or her hands on a teacher's weapon alone is enough for Linebarger to object to anyone considering such a solution.
The American Federation of Teachers made its position on the issue clear earlier this week after Michigan attempted to pass legislation to allow gun owners with extra training to carry on school property. There's no place for guns in schools, the organization said, and tragic consequences might result.
But Greg Lund, a former principal from Twin Valley, Minn., is one educator who feels there is a strong rationale behind his keeping a gun holstered to his belt at school for years.
Lund, who works with the National Association of Certified Firearms Instructors to train gun owners, noted the limited resources in the area of his school: there is at most one police officer on patrol duty at a time, and while local EMTs are nearby, the nearest ambulance is 18 miles away.
"Being rural, it's hit and miss as to how soon we could have police at the building if we called 911," Lund said. "I was concerned about someone from outside the building coming in."
Lund said he wanted to protect his students from an unstable person who might be looking to get their 15 minutes of fame.
Coni Sanders, the daughter of a science teacher who was killed in the Columbine massacre 13 years ago, is familiar with this question. Sanders said that an armed security officer exchanged fire with the gunmen. Had he been successful in shooting one of them, Sanders believes the story of Columbine could have been less tragic.
Still, Sanders said that her father would not have wanted to carry a gun himself, and that between the potential for friendly fire casualties, and human error, the risks of more teachers doing so are too high.
"Teachers are not perfect," Sanders said. "If we have a teacher who's normally very rational and gets the gun and over time, things start breaking down, whether it be mental illness or domestic violence, or divorce, or a child custody battle, are we going to be able to trust that the person can continue to be responsible with that gun?"
David Hemenway, a professor of public health at Harvard University who has studied gun violence, said that teachers with guns would not prevent violence in schools.
"We know that where there's more guns, there's more deaths," Hemenway said. "The evidence is overwhelming."
The same issues that arise in gun-owning homes -- increased suicides along with accidental and intentional shootings -- could just as well translate to schools, Hemenway said.
"In the 1970s, when we had the hijacking problem with the airlines, Archie Bunker in 'All in the Family' said we should arm all the passengers, and now it's considered a really good joke," he said.
Source: Project Vote Smart, Graphic by: Chris Spurlock
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."