Right now the NRA and their supporters are using the Parkland shooting as an opportunity to get multiple people carrying guns into schools all around the country. I've been watching legislative sessions and Town Halls in Kansas, Tennessee and Florida where lawmakers are voting to create and fund armed teachers programs.
Here is Republican Randy Fine during a Town Hall on March 28th sponsored by Florida Today First he said that in his meeting with 12 Parkland students, they didn't ask about gun control. Then, "What I've heard is you like more guns in schools. You just want them to be SROs."
The NRA strategy in Florida (and other states) is to go to lawmakers who are in charge of school safety and say, "Fund the programs that put people with guns in and around schools." Then that money gives the NRA lawmakers financial leverage over school safety programs. The money goes to NRA approved gun programs like Eddie the Eagle for kids in schools, and programs to train teachers to use guns.
I've watched education resources in Tennessee and Florida get carved up for programs designed to put guns in schools. When people asked to move that training money to totally different areas that didn't involve guns, they found it could only go to sheriffs. If a school district didn't want armed teachers, they couldn't use that training money for other programs. In Florida if a school declines to participate in the Armed Teacher Program that money goes to other schools that want armed teachers.
The NRA concept of school safety starts with a flawed premise, "People with guns must be around students to keep them safe from mass shooters." The gun lobby pushes the need for multiple people with guns in every school.
In Florida the Armed Teachers Program training budget was based on 10 armed teachers or staff in each school. (Link to Fine in video at 30:15 )
This message of more guns is being pushed not just to lawmakers, but to school board members, principals, administrators, parents, teachers and students. And it's working.
School board Vice Chair Tina Descovich explained that her goal is to have a minimum of one SRO for every school (Link to Descovich in video at 32:30)
The pro-gun people use the same slogans, false data, anecdotes, movie quotes, hero fantasies, legal maneuvers, money leverage and bullying they have successfully used on legislators for years. People who don't want guns in schools need to be prepared to destroy the frame that putting more people with guns in schools increases safety. School boards, principals and educators need facts so they can respond to the pro-gun arguments.
But don't underestimate the power of a good slogan, especially one where the speaker can put himself in the role of hero and protector of children. It doesn't matter to them that the slogan starts out with a blatantly false statement. 'The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun....is with a good guy with a gun. " This is not true!
The FBI examined 160 active shooter incidents (Active Shooter Incidents in the United States 2000-2013. "Most of the time, if you’re talking about a civilian stopping a mass shooter, it’s the unarmed guy without the gun because they're right there,” John Donohue, a law professor at Stanford University, co-author of a National Bureau of Economic Research study that examined how gun violence.
I know there are communities of parents who believe in more guns in schools. They will bully, argue and leverage money obtained by the state to get armed teachers and/or School Resource officers.
Listen to Senator Ty Masterson (R) NRA A+ from Kansas during the insurance committee hearing on arming teachers make a statement about gun-free zones based on cooked data from discredited research by John Lott. Then listen to Representative Parker shut him down
( I loved Parker's response, but it would be great to see someone get Masterson to admit his data is wrong and to promise to stop using it in the future.)
We have to push back in powerful, compelling ways. As my friend Eric Milgram of the Newtown Action Alliance said about the work of parents after Sandy Hook who were trying to change gun laws and attitudes, "We were too polite."
Is this happening in your state? I recommend finding to videos of your state legislators discussing School Safety Programs in committees. I will bet you 10 Quatloos it's happening in your state right now since it's a nation-wide NRA strategy.
Check to see your school board is having meetings. Are they only composed of school safety people who come from a gun culture? Are they addressing problems that many people don't even believe exist? Like creating a militarized school environment. Are they claiming they can manage the problem with black and brown kids being disproportionately sent to prison from school? (BTW, in Florida they are offering 8 full hours of diversity training for the armed teachers to fix the problem.)
Guilt: If You Don't Accept SROs It's Your Fault If People Die
What I've been seeing is that if lawmakers fail to actually put guns in schools via the teachers, they move onto other armed people options. The order of preference is first, School Resource Officers (SROs), since they claim "everyone agrees are the best option." Second is armed police officers as security guards. Third is armed administrators, coaches, janitors and staff. Forth is armed teachers.
I use the phrase, "Everyone agrees SROs are best," to reflect the talking point I've heard legislators use. Sadly, I'm also hearing this from educators, parents and students who don't want armed teachers, but who accept the premise that guns must be around students to keep them safe from mass shooters. This, "everyone agrees" bit on how great school resource officers are is especially insidious since everyone does NOT agree.
Deferring to NRA premises for your school safety decision is a trap. Using a gun to stop a shooter is not the only model. There are safety models that protect people in real time. There are defensive measures that can actually stop bullets. For example, the Parkland students who met with Fine asked for bullet proof doors, like in airplane cockpits.
The Big Picture: More Guns, More Gun Accidents
In Kansas Rep. Carpenter talks up the success of armed teachers in Texas and other states by saying, "If there was a problem, I'm pretty sure we would be hearing about it." No he would not. But there are problems. A friend just compiled a list of 22 accidents in schools in the last 5 years in school. But looking at accidents just in schools is NOT a sufficient comparison.
If any place where a new group of people starts using guns there WILL be gun accidents. That's based on looking at gun accidents in the entire population for years. These accidents include cops, gun instructors, licensed concealed carriers and novices. According to the National Center for Injury Protection and Control, each year more than 70,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal gunshot injuries.
What evidence do lawmakers use to support adding guns to schools?
At the same Town Hall in Florida, Brevard County Republican Thad Altman,was asked what informed his vote. Were there any studies that supported the idea that adding more guns in schools will make it less likely that people will be shot. Altman, couldn't, so he turned to Russia and the Beslan school hostage crisis and massacre carried out by armed Islamic militants, mostly Ingush and Chechen. His conclusion was:
"They [the Russians] have stopped that by adding more weapons and security in their schools." Link 34:30
Based on what I've been seeing, the pro-gun crowd will use all their tools and tricks to get more people with guns in schools while ignoring the consequences and costs.
If you don't believe more guns in schools is the solution, you have to make that clear to multiple audiences. That means explaining this to multiple legislators who sit on multiple committees. That means showing up and standing up to sheriffs, school boards, principals and parents, many of whom want to arm teachers and who sincerely believe it works.
In Florida they are using the argument that the armed teacher programs are voluntary for the school districts, but as one parent said, if a school district decides to put a gun in my child's school, it's no longer a voluntary for them..