Should Virginia permit public school teachers to be armed?
Gun protection isn’t the only solution to the problem of school violence
Kiser is president of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and superintendent of Gloucester County Public Schools.
I can appreciate David Adams’ point of view and certainly understand why hundreds if not thousands of individuals have an increased interest in guns and the proper handling of guns. Personal interest and emotions that may be driven by fear of a threat or fear that the law will restrict the purchase of certain firearms should not drive policy for school divisions throughout the United States or even Virginia. Policy issues must be debated, and consideration must be given to a comprehensive approach to preventing additional tragedies such as the one in Newtown.
If we as a society only arm individuals to protect against the deranged perpetrator, how do we prevent having deranged perpetrators? Will the process by which an individual can obtain a concealed carry permit guarantee that the person will not overreact to a matter and think that the availability of the weapon is now a viable solution to a personal matter? The argument that Utah, Texas or other states that allow concealed carry in schools have fewer incidents of violence may suggest a correlation but certainly does not substantiate causality. What about the states that do not allow concealed carry in schools and that also have not had gun violence in their schools?
Where does a society draw the line in arming our citizenry in public places? We all have the right to have firearms within our homes but we also put locks on our doors and windows, we install security systems, we buy pets that may provide an early warning to danger, and we purchase communication systems to contact authorities if needed. Are we ready to turn back the clock in the progression of our civilization so that everyone can walk down the street with a sidearm, concealed or not, and walk into our schools? There are many questions to this complicated issue. Thoughtful debate, which may include the consideration of additional resource officers in schools, should drive policy decisions that improve the safety of our children. Let us not react too quickly by thinking that protection is the only solution to the problem and proactive prevention has no place.
Adding training requirements will alleviate fear of armed teachers
Adams is the legislative committee chairman and a past president of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, the state affiliate association of the National Rifle Association. He served as assistant secretary of education and deputy secretary of education for higher education during Gov. Jim Gilmore’s administration.
There was quite a bit with which I agree in Ben Kiser’s argument. For instance, he suggested rather than quick solutions, there needs to be a broader conversation that will offer strategies to help educators provide truly safe places for our students. Unfortunately, Washington is focused entirely on quick solutions that will do nothing to prevent future Sandy Hooks, and we hear very little about taking the long view that Kiser suggests.
Speaking as a parent of two school-aged daughters, there is no reason for parents to fear someone other than law enforcement being armed at a school. There is a pervasive thought that people with concealed handgun permits are not well trained. CHP holders are constantly training at the range, and many pay hundreds of dollars for advanced training. Proponents of allowing school personnel with CHPs to carry don’t oppose training requirements. In fact, the Virginia Shooting Sports Association has certified instructors who are prepared to offer training to school personnel at no cost.
There was one error in Kiser’s piece related to the Columbine shooting that needs to be corrected. He noted that Columbine had armed personnel, and it did not deter the shooting. The fact is, the attack began while the school resource officer was off-campus. The officer returned shortly after the start of the attack and fired some long-distance shots at the killers, who were on the school porch at the time, causing the killers to move inside the school building, and likely saving several lives. Inexplicably, the officer failed to pursue the killers into the building. Fortunately, since Columbine, police tactics have changed dramatically related to active shooters.
VSSA does not consider allowing school staff to carry to be expedient. We just believe it’s time to seriously consider the option.