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Are Armed Teachers Outperforming School Resource Officers?

Clark Aposhian, president of Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun, rear, while Joanna Baginska, a fourth-grade teacher from Odyssey Charted School, in American Fork, Utah, aims a 40 cal. Sig Sauer during concealed-weapons training for the teachers in West Valley City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

In the current push for more gun control in America, lots of old “data” is being tossed around. Some of it is good information, and much of it is either altogether fake or taken from poorly-designed studies. I don’t think I have to tell readers here what side of the debate most of the info falls in each category, because it’s pretty obvious. There’s one gem, however, that keeps popping up: hysteria over the supposed dangers of arming teachers.

But there’s one problem with all of this alarm: arming teachers is working so well that the question of how well it would work out hasn’t even been tested.

Normally, a lack of data isn’t anything to go on, but in this case the statistical silence speaks volumes. As TTAG pointed out pointed in 2019, there just haven’t been any shootings at schools with armed teachers and staff, while the rate of shootings in other schools had doubled. Since that study came out, there still haven’t been any shootings at schools with armed staff or teachers.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that good people with guns are frightening bad people with guns away, but it’s not that simple. Among the schools where no staff or teachers are armed, many have an armed cop or “school resource officer.” But as we sadly know, schools with cops on duty still experience school shootings, and sometimes the police on campus are too cowardly to take the shooter on and stop the killing.

This leaves us with the question as to why mass killers seem to be avoiding schools with armed teachers while they don’t seem to be terribly perturbed by the presence of uniformed people with guns. Because we don’t know the stories of people who ultimately decided to not go through with it, we can’t know the answer for sure. We can, however, make some educated guesses.

One guess comes from the same man who conducted that 2019 study, John R. Lott, Jr.

A little ways into the video, he points out that an armed guard or school resource officer sticks out like a sore thumb. If an attacker with a rifle shows up, they know that they can shoot the uniformed, open-carrying man or woman first, and then they’ll probably have some time to rack up a high body count before more people with guns show up to stop them. But, if they don’t know who has a gun, they have to give away their position and become the target themselves.

Prospective shooters may also know that cops aren’t as close to the students as the teachers, both in terms of proximity and emotional bonds. While a cop has the option of chickening out like the cop at Parkland, teachers have a lot more skin in the game and probably can’t get away without confronting the shooter.

That means an armed teacher won’t be fighting for the lives of people they don’t know well, but fighting for their own life and those of their students who they know very well. It doesn’t take much brainstorming to figure this second factor out.

It’s probably also wise to consider that correlation doesn’t mean causation. Just because the sick people who would carry out this kind of attack haven’t targeted schools with armed teachers doesn’t mean the presence of armed teachers directly has caused them (so far) not to attack. Considering that there may be other factors opens up many other possibilities, such as the culture in the area where teachers are armed.

It could very well be that the same kinds of populations that would vote for a school board that would allow teachers to protect their students are generally doing better by their kids and not turning their young men into violent killers, while the people who vote for an anti-gun school boards aren’t doing as well raising their kids. The same may apply across entire states where school boards don’t have the option at all.

School Resource Officer
Dara Van Antwerp, the school resource officer at Panther Run Elementary School Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

I’m not saying a rural upbringing can’t still produce a troubled people, but I have to think about my own childhood. Growing up outside a small town and having agricultural chores after school (cleaning horse stalls, cutting weeds, feeding animals) plus some part-time work helping my grandfather service dairy machinery (and getting pooped on a LOT) didn’t leave me with much spare time to watch TV and learn from the Disney Channel that chasing fame is “the way.” Instead, I learned that hard, and sometimes unpleasant work is how you get good things in life.

I absolutely hated high school, but by the time it was over I had already taken classes at a community college and landed a job that paid a lot better than minimum wage. Again, I was too busy working to get into much trouble while the clout-chasing cable TV kids were getting into drugs and other trouble.

Obviously, none of these things can explain it all by themselves, but some combination of the above, along with other factors we aren’t thinking of probably add up the better safety records at schools with armed teachers. It’s probably something that deserves a deeper look by people who study these things for a living.

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