How difficult would it be to arm teachers?

Recently a friend of mine shared this post in which Jim Wright asks a few “basic questions” about how we would arm teachers. Wright suggests it would be essentially impossible to properly train teachers to respond to school shootings, saying even our soldiers aren’t trained to handle such a situation. He asks who will pay for the training, who the teachers will answer to, which weapons will be allowed, what insurance the school will acquire, and whether a teacher will be held liable for mistakenly shooting an innocent bystander or for failing to stop an active shooter. He claims “the hole is bottomless,” concluding:

I’m asking BASIC questions about this idea of arming up teachers and putting amateurs with guns in schools. Questions that any competent gun operator should ask. You want to put more guns, carried by amateurs, into a building packed full of children. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here.

Wright is reflecting the skepticism and indignance of many people. In particular some of my friends who are teachers have made posts clearly stating they do not want to carry weapons to school and are dismayed by the thought. More than one of them have shared this video in response.

Click the image to see the public video on Facebook.

Several go beyond saying they personally don’t want to carry weapons to asserting no one else should have firearms on school property either, often making demands along the lines “Don’t bring more guns into my school.”

Two quick notes on that last part:

  1. Assuming any increase in quantity of guns means an increase in danger seems simplistic to me. More guns can increase or decrease danger depending on who is carrying them and why. A gun in the hands of a kid hoping to kill as many people as possible is not equivalent to a gun in the hands of a trained Student Resources Officer or conceal carry permit holder hoping to keep as many people alive as possible.
  2. In this context, the phrase “my school” is off-putting. Schools don’t belong only to the teachers working in them; they also belong to the children attending and the parents of those children, especially when we are discussing the best ways to protect our children. I understand there are many parents who do not want armed school staff. And there are many parents who do, like me.1 My point here is not that the answer is simple, obvious, or unified; my point is teachers don’t have the only say in this debate.2

Anyway, the objections to arming teachers seem to make several assumptions:

    1. We don’t have the resources to arm teachers.
    2. The logistics of arming teachers are too difficult to disentangle.
    3. Teachers don’t want to be armed.3
    4. Armed teachers would make schools less safe, not more safe.

In terms of the law, as of May 2016, there were 17 states that banned conceal carry guns on college campuses; 1 state (Tennessee) banned students and the public from carryng guns on campus but allowed faculty members to do so; 8 states allowed conceal carry guns; and the remaining 24 states left the decision to the school. Of course this information is for only college campuses, not K-12 schools.4

Given the option, many school districts already allow their teachers to be armed. This fact alone puts the first three assumptions to rest. Apparently resources, logistics, and desire were not dealbreakers in arranging to have armed school employees on campus. Here is an excerpt from a 2016 Washington Post article:

The Kingsburg Joint Union High School District in Kingsburg, Ca., is the latest district to pass such a measure. At a school board meeting on Monday, the Fresno Bee reported, members unanimously approved a policy that allows district employees to carry a concealed firearm within school bounds.

The employees will be selected by the superintendent, and will have to complete a training and evaluation process. The new policy was made effective immediately.

While proposals to arm teachers have been familiar refrains in Texas and Indiana, the passing of such a mandate on the West Coast signals that the strategy is being considered elsewhere in the country.

In fact, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District covering the cities of Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Mather, Calif., has allowed employees to bring guns to school since 2010, but only revealed the policy to parents last month.

Some people against the idea of arming teachers say it will create an intimidating environment for kids, but note Folsom Cordova’s school district allowed it for 5-6 years before anyone even knew about it. Arming teachers had so little impact on the daily school environment people couldn’t even tell it had happened.

In the wake of the most recent shooting, more school boards are following suit, voting unanimously to allow trained employees to carry concealed weapons.

People opposed to arming teachers seem to envision a bureaucratic and expensive process that results in an intimidating environment where teachers nervously walk the hallways with rifles over their shoulders. The reality is that arming teachers has so far consisted of allowing those who want to be armed to first get training and then either carry concealed weapons or keep weapons locked in safes. From what I can tell, the individuals who want to be armed cover the costs of the training, permit, and firearm themselves. Again, the school’s resources, logistics, and the teacher’s desire don’t seem to be issues.

To my mind, the only real issue is the question of whether allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons will overall increase or decrease student and staff safety. Despite how horrifying school shootings are, they are also exceedingly rare. And while I have no specific data on this, I suspect that even if firearms were permitted on all schools across the country, relatively few teachers and other school staff would choose to carry them. The odds seem very low of a school shooting happening in such a way that an armed staff member would even be present to react. Meanwhile, having legal guns on campus opens the door to accidental injuries. Some of my friends against armed school staff have posted stories about teachers forgetting their firearm or having it stolen while on school property.5 There’s a cost-benefit question here: if arming teachers increases the chances of accidentally injuring or even killing students but also increases the chances of saving lives during school shootings, how do we quantify those two factors and weigh them against each other?

I know of no hard data here. We do know that in our country, in general, guns are used more often in accidental deaths than in justifiable homicide. However we aren’t just considering accidental deaths but also accidental injuries, and we aren’t just considering justifiable homicide but also self-defense that involves injuring but not killing the shooter or even not firing the gun at all but brandishing it and getting the shooter to stand down. Additionally the overall statistics for the whole country include people who have received no training in the safe use and storage of firearms, whereas conceal and carry permits typically require training, and individual school districts could require further training as needed. Apparently there are quite a few school districts that have allowed armed staff for years, and I have not been able to find any stories of accidental deaths or even injuries from a teacher’s gun on school property.

Meanwhile, it is intuitive to me that if a teacher were to find herself in the position where there is a mass shooter attacking her or her students, both she and her students would have a greater chance of survival if she had a gun than if she did not. When Sandy Hook happened, I cried as I read in absolute horror about Lauren Rousseau and her first graders, completely trapped and defenseless. Even at the time I wondered if it would have been different if she had had a gun.6

A note here: I don’t want the world we live in, the society we live in, to require first grade teachers to need guns. I don’t want there to be any guns on any school property at all. I don’t want children to have to do active shooter drills, or teachers to have to be trained to recognize gun shots, or parents to drop their kids off and worry if they will be safe each day. It’s awful. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking, and sometimes I can hardly stand to think about it.

But I also don’t think we have a way to 100% ensure that deranged or evil people will not be able to show up and try to kill as many unarmed teachers and children as possible. In fact, given our country’s unique relationship with guns, and our relatively unique 2nd amendment, I think preventing such shootings is ridiculously difficult. I still think we should try, but I don’t think our efforts to stem the death toll should be limited only to preventing shooters from showing up in the first place. I think we should also have efforts to address what innocent people can do if a shooter does show up.

As I write this post, a news story is breaking suggesting that not only did the School Resources Officer fail to engage Nicholas Cruz, but so did three additional deputies present during the shooting. All four officers remained outside the school while Cruz shot unarmed teachers and students. Some opponents to arming teachers point out that if even trained officers struggle to engage a mass shooter, how can we expect teachers to be able to handle it? But this question presumes that teachers get any choice; the reality is that if the shooter is already in the school and breaking into the classroom, the teacher will have to face the shooter anyway. And I can’t help but wonder: if police won’t engage the shooter, how can we disarm teachers and tell them to wait for the police?

 

18 thoughts on “How difficult would it be to arm teachers?”

  1. I am for allowing teachers who so wish, to be armed. Though I am also for additional training and screening of those who do simply because one does not know how they will react when placed in a position to be responsible for taking a life, or facing having yours taken. That reaction if incorrect will cost lives.

    I am against requiring it of anyone. Period. Just no. Nothing you argue will sway me from that.

    As has been demonstrated, with the failure of the Resource Officer, local law enforcement and the FBI to follow up and do something, when people said something we need to consider additional defensive measures for our schools and they need to be multi-layered so that when these ones fail we have more.

    Schools need to be hardened. School doors and windows need to be able to withstand shots from fire arms. Lock devices need to be added and in place to keep shooters from getting into classrooms as well, not just the doors to the schools. I think we should even have metal detectors at schools.

    I’ve heard the argument that we don’t want our children going to “prisons” for school, but to be honest even without metal detectors many schools already look like prisons. Several of mine did. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to live in a world where we never have to worry about anyone killing anyone else. Until we reach that point, and to be clear taking the guns away won’t do it, until then we should take multiple measures to protect our children while they are in a learning environment.

    Metal detectors, hardened windows and doors, additional available locks, cameras that show in real time for law enforcement, and being open to additional ideas to harden schools in a defensive manner. As well, the offensive options of armed people (veterans, resource officers, whatever) as well as allowing teachers who so wish, to have access to fire arms.

    Heck, Israel doesn’t have school shootings despite all the violence there. Let’s look at what they do and implement what we can.

    Multiple layers of offensive and defensive measure to deter and prevent this will absolutely make a difference. So let’s not think that just one is going to make it work. We need more, and we can do it all without taking guns away.

    At the same time, yes let’s increase mental health care, reporting capabilities to the background check service (NICS) and take other measures as suggested like additional counselors, to help prevent people from reaching this point.

    Ultimately it is us, as members of society who have failed the people. We are responsible for this as a whole because we have allowed ourselves to be put at odds with one another and told not to talk about it, or that we can’t because we must hate anyone who disagrees with us. We have to change our attitudes towards others, most especially those with whom we disagree.

  2. My kids went to a private school with armed teachers. The school basically allowed teachers to be armed. I never saw a gun in the school, and it has never been a safety issue. We didn’t even know which teachers were armed. I think that alone deters violence — knowing that some faculty are armed, but not knowing all the identities or locations. As a parent, I was happy with this arrangement. My kids also learn firearm safety and use. In Montana, almost every kid does this. So I am less concerned with accidents, especially with older kids.

    I do have some personal experience with the benefits of armed citizenry. Last year, a foreigner (I don’t know his citizen status or his reasons for being here) was threatening violence against our church and Catholic college for religious reasons. He was escorted off the college campus, but continued to make threats. I don’t know his status or location at this point.

    Around the same time, last Christmas Eve, a man walked into a packed Mass with a backpack, paced around, and started yelling obscenities and getting confrontational. I was feet away from this guy, just below him, coming up the stairs. A group of armed men (concealed) swiftly approached him and got him out of the building. I am thankful that many of our parishioners are armed and quick to act. He was probably drunk, and I don’t know if he meant physical harm. But the combination of direct violent threats from one man and scary behavior by another is enough to make me appreciate voluntarily armed citizens. I am bothered by accusations of “not caring about the kids” or being “part of the problem”. I *know* the benefit of armed citizens, and I do not want to face these situations without them because those rare statistics feel way too close to home. And I do not want our churches and schools to become gun-free zones.

  3. >> “A gun in the hands of a kid hoping to kill as many people as possible is not equivalent to a gun in the hands of a trained Student Resources Officer”

    … because the SRO will just cower in the bushes, while the murderer will actually use his weapon…

    This is all good in this post. We’re not between no guns in school and making Mrs. Patterson mount an AR-15 above her chalkboard, and it’s a false dilemma that many are making. If some specific and authorized people at the school want to carry guns to class, then that seems like a reasonable position most people can agree to. Specific and authorized people with guns is how we secure courthouses, stadiums, airports, and shopping malls.

    Maybe stricter gun laws is also part of the solution, maybe better mental health facilities is part of the solution, and those are valid conversations. But this part seems pretty reasonable.

    This idea needs to include semi-frequent announcements during drills or whatever that some staff are armed and trained to respond with deadly force and will run in during the real thing, in addition to anonymity (outside of faculty/admin) about which teachers are armed. The kids don’t need to see the guns or even know who has them; just that there are guns there.

  4. Leaving aside the comfort and discomfort people feel about weapons in schools, it sounds like the data available on armed teachers includes: 2 instances of mishandling, 0 accidental injuries, 0 successful defenses. If that’s so, can we agree that arming teachers has, so far, had more negative than positive results, as far as we know?

    I also have to note that, so long as the intent is to arm a minority of teachers, you still have the problem that, most often, the on-site armed individuals will have to seek out a confrontation with a (usually) more heavily-armed shooter who is more likely than them to have body armor.

    One thing I don’t understand about this debate is why we so rarely ask whether we might arm teachers with nonlethal weapons. I’d feel a lot more comfortable with teachers having access to tear gas or rubber bullets or something that wouldn’t kill students in case of accident (or, however horrible to contemplate, deliberate misuse). Does that appeal to anyone else?

  5. Kelsey –

    I think having nonlethal weapons does sound like a good step. There have been several cases where completely unarmed civilians have stopped mass shooters. Nonlethal weapons would, I would think, only increase their odds and at the same time might put to ease a lot of people’s worries about arming teachers.

    I don’t think, though, that the nonlethal weapon idea puts to rest the conceal carry idea, in the sense that if a teacher wants to be able to conceal and carry I still think they ought to be able to for all the same reasons stated above.

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that we have 2 instances of mishandling, 0 accidental injuries, and 0 successful defenses. I think there are several issues with summarizing it that way:

    1) The instances of mishandling were not by teachers who had permission from the school to bring their weapons. This matters because just by ignoring school rules they are demonstrating a level of irresponsibility I would hope teachers that get training, license, and permission would not demonstrate.

    2) I know of at least one case where an armed coach fought off attackers, but I did not include it here because the attackers were not likely to be mass shooters. It wasn’t that kind of attack. http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/man-shot-near-martin-luther-king-jr-high-school-in-detroit

    3) I know of another story where an assistant principal at a high school detained a shooter after the shooter had already killed people but before the shooter was able to escape. Some believe he was going to a junior high to kill more people and others believe he was just going to flee, sot here’s no way to know if the assistant principal had specifically prevented more deaths. Another complication is that the assistant principal had to go to his car to retrieve his firearm. It’s unclear if the outcome would have been different if he had the firearm concealed on him, as many conceal carriers do. (http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/09/us/southern-town-stunned-by-arrests-in-murder-plot.html)

    4) There’s no way (that I know of) to know if the schools that anounce they have armed staff (like the pic at the top of this article) have a deterrent effect, which would certainly go in the “positive” column when considering arming teachers and staff.

    Anyway, those are just a few thoughts. It’s all still pretty limited data.

  6. Kelsey-

    When places with armed teachers have had “0 successful defenses,” I don’t see how that can be considered a negative result. If a potential shooter chooses not to attack a school because the teachers there might be armed, that’s a positive. We never know which schools deterred an attack under such circumstances since the attack didn’t happen, so it’s hard to get data on such incidents. But teachers in Utah’s schools have been allowed to be armed for many years, and how many school shootings have happened in Utah? None worth wringing one’s hands over, that’s how many.

    Larry Correia wrote about the issue in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, and he addresses the matter of arming teachers at length.

    http://monsterhunternation.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/

  7. Monica, I’d regard both of those examples as relevant. Not quite ideal, but more than suggestive. And I’d concede that the population of armed teachers isn’t identical to the population of teachers armed pursuant to school policy. So, insofar as empirical data is concerned, we’re obviously looking at far less than necessary for firm conclusions, but that’s better than I thought.

    But I also went looking for examples of accidents, and found the following on the first to pages of the search “teacher’s gun accident”:
    – A Salt Lake City teacher accidentally shot a toilet, sustaining injuries both from the bullet and shards of porcelain: http://www.fox10tv.com/story/27812420/teacher-hurt-after-gun-goes-off-in-school-bathroom
    – A Lithia Springs, GA teacher shot himself (it’s unclear whether this was accidental or deliberate self-harm): https://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/veteran-lithia-springs-high-teacher-shoots-self-school-classes-canceled/ySkZFldVAcQEqaXTYrihbK/
    -An ISU instructor shot himself in the foot: https://www.idahostatejournal.com/members/isu-instructor-shoots-himself-in-the-foot/article_960a7244-332b-11e4-9442-0019bb2963f4.html
    – A police officer accidentally fired his weapon in an Ohio school (the article only mentions this in passing): https://www.ohio.com/akron/news/politics/ohio-house-excuses-schools-teachers-for-gun-accidents

    Eric, I agree that the absence of evidence for deterrence does not constitute evidence of absence, and with school shootings being mercifully rare, we can’t draw any statistically reliable conclusions from differential rates of them at schools with and without armed teachers. However, if there were clear cases of such defenses (and I’d count both of Monica’s examples as close enough), that would help her case.

    I have a particularly low opinion of Larry Correia after some second- and third-hand reports of his behavior (which I may be misremembering, but which accord well with what I just read). The fact that he doesn’t even consider the possibility of accidents involving the guns he proposes giving to teachers suggests that he is either staggeringly ignorant of the reasons for opposition to his proposal, or is mendaciously pretending they do not exist in order to avoid acknowledging their legitimacy. He even specifically claims he’ll address the concerns about guns in schools immediately before pretending that the most likely problem doesn’t exist.

  8. Kelsey-

    I think your list of examples is a good one because it highlights that it’s not a question of teachers accidentally discharging firearms if they are permitted to bring them into the school: we already have this problem with police officers. In other words, there’s a risk whenever anyone (military, law enforcement, or civilian) carries a gun. Since a certain percentage of teachers are going to accidentally fire their weapon, if we increase the number of teachers with weapons we will increase the number of accidental discharges. This is absolutely true. But it’s already true of bringing in armed security, anyway, since officers are also human beings who make mistakes.

    The question is just one of trade-offs. On the pro side, if you’re arming teachers you’re (1) potentially deterring mass shooters from picking a school in the first place, (2) allowing those teachers to have some ability to defend themselves in principle, and (3) providing the possibility of a rapid, armed response if a shooting does occur. Some injuries and deaths could be prevented, and peoples’ right to self defense would be honored. On the con side, there will be more accidental discharges and there is even the possibility that a student or staff who wouldn’t have a gun otherwise could steal one from someone carrying. Some injuries and possibly even deaths could result.

  9. Nathaniel, that all sounds right. Humans just aren’t well-suited to perfection, so any gun in human hands poses some risk of a lapse in carefulness. This sounds like a wonderful argument in favor of keeping guns away from children. :-)

    I get that being able to defend yourself and others is a comfort to many. But perhaps you’ve seen a tweet thread Nick Harkaway posted today:
    https://twitter.com/harkaway/status/968045009768468480
    This gist of it is that his son, having seen some news, was afraid to go to school. And he was able to reassure that son that he was safe, because, in the U.K., they have gun laws which prevent school shootings.

    After I saw that, I checked Facebook, and the first thing I saw was a friend of mine, who has at son at my kids school, describing how she had panicked for the safety of that son when she, driving near the school, saw emergency vehicles nearby. Fortunately, I read fast enough that I didn’t get too upset before I learned it wasn’t for the school, but a nearby emergency.

    The laws we have don’t provide comfort, they shift it. They take it from people, especially parents, like me and give it to people whose principle virtue is supposedly that they’re willing to sacrifice for the good of others. Arming teachers exacerbates this transfer. If there were enough data to make an evidence-based choice, I’d be willing to follow the data. Without that, this looks to me like those whose selfishness costs the rest of us peace of mind (and sometimes our lives or the lives of our children) demanding further privilege for their preferences and degradation of the rest of us.

    I am unable to trust the altruistic tendencies of those who claim to want the opportunity to sacrifice for the good of their communities while refusing to make such a sacrifice which is already available to them. There are many more people who want tougher gun laws than want even more proliferation (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/02/25/poll-americans-support-tougher-gun-laws-dont-expect-congress-act/371104002/). The greatest contribution gun owners could make to the peace of mind of their country is to drop their opposition to such laws which have worked literally everywhere else they’ve been tried.

  10. >>Without that, this looks to me like those whose selfishness costs the rest of us peace of mind (and sometimes our lives or the lives of our children) demanding further privilege for their preferences and degradation of the rest of us.< < I object to this characterization. Most gun rights proponents are against gun control laws because they believe those laws either (1) are unconstitutional or (2) will cost people’s lives (or both). In the USA Today article you linked, they cited a poll showing most people want to ban semiautomatic weapons. Such a measure would absolutely be unconstitutional, as nearly all guns owned by civilians are semiautomatic. Even if what they meant was banning only so-called assault weapons, or even solely the AR-15 specifically, there is little evidence to suggest such a ban would increase safety or decrease the frequency or deadliness of mass shootings. Over 3/4ths of mass shootings are done with firearms that are neither assault weapons nor even high capacity weapons. (https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=263487)

    I agree that we should look for evidence-based solutions. In my experience, people frequently support gun control laws which we have little or no evidence will increase safety. Even if we left aside the issue of constitutional rights, I am against pushing ineffective measures for the sake of security theater. (Incidentally, this is the same reason I would be fine with abolishing the TSA).

    Meanwhile, by even conservative estimates, gun owners defend themselves with their firearms at least tens of thousands of times per year. The most conservative study cited in this article is 108,000 times per year, with other estimates drastically higher: Note that the vast majority of those self-defense uses are with semiautomatic weapons. https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/WP-Tough-Targets.pdf

    It makes as much sense for you to accuse gun rights proponents of selfishness at the cost of people’s lives as it does for me to accuse gun control proponents of the same. Please note I don’t think you are motivated by selfishness. I think you’re motivated to protect innocent people and you advocate for the methods you think will best do that. But so do gun proponents, and to be frank I am very weary of the assumption being it is only the gun control side that cares about this.

    However, all of that aside, if there are measures which would increase safety without limiting constitutional rights, I do agree Congress should act on those measures. I believe extending background checks to private sales is a good example. I would be for measures like that.

  11. As an afterthought: I don’t think it’s clear that arming teachers puts the desires of a few over the peace of mind of the many. The polls I’ve seen show the public split roughly in half over whether teachers should be armed, and there wasn’t even a strong difference in opinion between parents and non-parents. (Polls linked in the article.) As a parent, I would have more peace of mind if my daughters’ teachers were trained and armed, and it’s not clear to me that my view matters less than the parent who feels the opposite.

  12. Monica, I understand why you’d object to my characterization, but one side of this debate has deliberately prevented to collection of data within this country, and has repeatedly advanced the argument that comparisons to other countries are illegitimate (and thus that no evidence exists which bears on these questions). Does this sound to you like the behavior of people who expect the evidence to support their view? So, yes, absolutely, there are some wrongheaded and ill-supported gun control proposals. But the best proposals are ill-supported because gun proponents refuse to allow the gathering of evidence!

    According to the poll you cited, 6% more Americans oppose arming teachers than support it. That’s a difference of about twenty million people. So, if you think your view matters as much as everyone else’s, you should accept the preferences of those 20 million extra people. Find another country sufficiently developed that their government can effectively administer and enforce strong gun control, and you’ll almost certainly have identified a country which chooses to do so and which has a lower murder rate than the U.S.

    My objection isn’t that gun proponents don’t care about saving lives. I think they generally believe that guns save lives. My problem is that they deliberately avoid encountering evidence that suggests that this is false. I don’t think that’s a simple matter of wanting guns more than they want to save lives. But I think an awful lot of people, on all sides, are reluctant to challenge the assertions of the authorities to whom they feel an allegiance without good reason. It’s absolutely maddening to gun control proponents that their constant anxiety and the actual increases in risk they suffer aren’t reason enough for gun proponents to even support pilot programs and data collection.

    The gun lobby controls the evidence we’re allowed to see. I don’t see any indication that this plays any role in your epistemology. Does it?

  13. From what I understand, the CDC is forbidden from collecting data on this subject, and I don’t agree with that limitation at all. I’m not sure that means there is no data collection or information, however, given there are other groups that can conduct research besides the CDC. I’ve been reading quite a lot of research related to gun control and gun rights lately. Am I misunderstanding the scope of the problem?

    I do think comparisons to other countries are problematic, since few countries recognize a citizen’s right to own a firearm. If we had no second amendment, I think those comparisons would make more sense. Otherwise, comparisons to other countries that have much more sweeping gun control legislation sound a lot like suggestions that the 2nd amendment should be irrelevant.

    I am fine with gun control proponents openly stating they would like to see SCOTUS overturn DC v Heller or they would like to amend the Constitution to remove the 2nd amendment as it stands. Both of those approaches involve acknowledging the importance of constitutional rights and working within that framework. The approach that bothers me is trying to just ignore the 2nd amendment without getting rid of or altering it; I think that approach is very bad precedent for Constitutional rights generally.

    The poll I cited has a +/- 4 point margin of error, which means 44% and 50% are a statistical tie. That said, my point earlier wasn’t that everyone agrees but simply that gun rights proponents aren’t a fringe element but actually a pretty large chunk of the country. It isn’t the few versus the many; it’s many versus many, if that makes sense.

  14. The federal government is the only entity capable of mandating the collection and release of data about crime by state and local law enforcement. Every attempt I have seen to collect data on the effects of our gun policies has included a lament that the available evidence is fractured, incomplete, and often incompatible between different localities. Most of them try to do just what you and I did–rely on media reports to provide estimates of the occurrences of various problems. So, yes, I think your understanding understates the scope of the problem.

    You’re right that other countries need not obey our second amendment, but many of the measures they have adopted don’t violate it. For example, my understanding is that Australia had a pretty similar gun culture, then reacted to a mass shooting with a variety of stringent gun control measures, very few of which would be clearly unconstitutional here.

    I also have to take issue with the use of “statistical tie”. It’s a troubling phrase; a brief explanation of what it’s used to mean can be found here: https://jonathanturley.org/2012/10/06/the-myth-of-the-statistical-tie/. But here’s what bothers me about it in the current context: given the statistics, we should expect that the probability that those opposed to arming teachers are more numerous than those who support it is quite high–not quite 95% confidence, but much more than 70%. Yet you read this and treat it as though it’s even odds. Now, maybe that’s not motivated reasoning on your part, but you also appeal to the fact that, even if those who agree with you are in the minority, it’s a large minority. And that makes me feel as though you think that being a large minority rather than a fringe minority makes it okay for your views to prevail over the views of a larger number of people who disagree with you. That strikes me as fundamentally anti-democratic, in much the way that those who now defend the Electoral College often appeal to anti-democratic principles (even though support for popular vote election of presidents was at 2/3 before Republicans got their last two presidents in PV/EV splits).

    So, again, maybe that’s not motivated reasoning. But you also don’t seem to take any account of the fact that the lobby which says we should arm teachers is also the lobby which prevents us from seeing data about how problematic that could be. There doesn’t seem to be even the whisper of an attempt to correct for that. So you can understand how it would be troubling to someone who doesn’t already agree. Even if your motives are pure, your methods seem to import the flaws of the impure motives of others.

  15. I see what you’re saying about data collection. I’ve read Congressional and FBI reports about gun ownership and reported crimes, reported self-defense uses, etc., but I agree that more comprehensive data would be better. I see no justification for forbidding the collection of data.

    I think you’re reading implications I’m not trying to impart as far as the polls and statistics. I do object to the idea that people who support gun rights are a fringe group instead of a large minority, but I am not citing the proportion as reason for being allowed to arm teachers. I’m citing it only to say the arguments for arming teachers are not coming from the few trying to impose their will on the many. In general it’s my impression the gun control side of this debate seems to think far fewer people disagree than is actually the case, and that’s how I interpreted your previous comments as well. If that’s not what you meant, then the entire aside is unnecessary.

    I will say that I don’t think gun ownership in general should be subject to the approval of the majority, in that Constitutional rights should not be subject to popular vote. However I recognize the distinctions between gun ownership, conceal and carry generally, and conceal and carry in schools specifically. I’m not fully resolved on what I think about the tension between individuals being able to exercise Constitutionally protected rights and parents getting final say in whether their children are around guns in school, but I’m inclined toward the latter, partly because I don’t think conceal and carry per se is Constitutionally protected.

  16. I apologize—I’m pretty sensitive to anything with a family resemblance to the claim that conservative policy preferences ought to prevail over liberal policy preferences if they’re only slightly in the minority. I fear that something in that family has done a great deal of damage in undermining the ability of liberals to believe that conservatives want a government which weights everyone’s policy preferences equally and tries to fairly represent them. If you were advancing that point to suggest something other than the view that the large minority view that we should arm teachers may legitimately prevail over the small majority view that we shouldn’t, then I have misinterpreted due to that over-sensitivity.

    There’s an interesting article by David French up on The Atlantic about he got into gun culture. I think his experience leaves out the history, family, and military connections which help shape gun culture, and he gives no time to the joy of destruction (I’ve heard one too many stories about going off into the wilderness to destroy trees with guns and tannerite to dismiss this), but it’s sympathetic and moving. However, I had much the same reaction to it as the author this tweet thread: https://twitter.com/alanlevinovitz/status/968836006106497024
    He basically points out that what has persuaded French that he is safer is that he feels safer. He feels empowered. He’s heard anecdotes about guns improving safety (from the people in the gun industry and to whom the industry connected him). It isn’t that he read up on the issue, and the statistics work out that way. They don’t: https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/160/10/929/140858
    (Hat tip to one of the commenters on the thread for that link). That’s why homeowners and health insurance rates don’t go down if you get a gun. But he feels like it’s true, and that feeling is guiding him.

  17. Upon reflection, I think the point about insurance rates is slightly unfair. It is consistent with this particular fact that a person is safer after buying a gun than before, but that the person’s choice to purchase a gun gives the insurance company information suggesting that the person was much less safe than the company thought before the purchase, which overwhelms the effect of the added safety. The 2004 study suggests my original interpretation is accurate, but I had taken the insurance bit to be stronger than it is. Apologies.

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