When Teachers Carry Guns

Last year, in the aftermath of the school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre suggested that a good way to prevent additional shootings would be to arm the teachers.

This suggestion was widely decried among pundits. Some schools are actually doing this, however. As Nicholas Kusnetz, of the Center for Public Integrity, writes at Mother Jones:

It wasn’t quite cold enough to need a vest on a mid-November Texas morning, but Matt Dossey was wearing one anyway. Made of heavy-weight beige canvas, the vest just might have been concealing a pistol. There was no way to tell. Perhaps that was the point.

Dossey is the superintendent at Jonesboro Independent School District, a compound of three low, pale-brick buildings sandwiched between broad oak trees in the back and a horse pasture across the road up front. Jonesboro is a tiny community nestled in the rolling Texas scrubland 110 miles north of Austin, but aside from the schools, a post office and two churches, there’s little to suggest a town.

In the aftermath of Newton state legislators introduced hundreds of school safety bills. Some called for additional school security. Texas, however, did no such thing. But,

In January, the district adopted a policy of arming a select group of staff members with concealed weapons as a deterrent and defense against a potential school shooter. Jonesboro straddles the border between Coryell and Hamilton counties, and it’s more than 15 miles to the nearest sheriff’s department. The town is unincorporated, so it has no government and no police. If someone were to attack the school, Dossey said, no one’s coming to protect the kids — not quickly, anyway.

The author guests that while it’s easy to see this as a red state bizarro-reaction to a very serious societal problem (which sort of is) it’s also about something more complicated.

Handgun

In many of these places the arm-the-teachers movement comes at the same time as education funding cuts. What really may be going on here is the privatization of safety itself.

Parents and teachers understandably see their children’s physical safety as paramount and if their communities are unable, or unwilling, to do something more substantive to make communities safer, well, this kind of makes sense.

As Matt Dossey explained:

The realization I think we all have to be under is that we’re all on film, twenty-four-seven just about. If you pull up to a department store or a big box store, park your car, you’re on camera. You’re being observed. Just about any public building, that’s happening. The cost of our society in terms of security is that we give up a little bit of that autonomy.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer