I spent 8 hours watching and re-watching a Florida school board meeting. I saw a group of smart, articulate women, and a few men, create strong cases against the proposal to arm teachers and staff. They provided excellent information and examples of the problems when you bring guns into schools on a permanent basis.
I was especially pleased to see them bring up the issue of negligence with guns, liability and ongoing cost of insurance. Especially concerning for school districts is the huge financial risk because of Monell liability. These were questions the board was unable to answer. Video link of the Brevard County school board expressing their confusion around liability, insurance, and asking questions about costs.)
Then I watched some people, who had just explained all the serious problems with guns in schools, come out in support of guns in schools. What the what?
In this case these guns would be in the hands of police officers, called School Resource Officers (SROs). Although SROs should have more training in the use of firearms than the teachers, at the end of the day there will be more guns in more schools.
This is what happens when decades of gun propaganda is combined with the legislative strategy of "The Hammer," Marion Hammer, NRA's uber-lobbyist.
Florida school boards specifically are in this position because the state provided some money for SROs and Armed Teacher Training. The armed teacher program has been getting rejected by school boards across the state. When put in the position of choosing one or the other some school boards and parents ask, "If we must do a gun program, can we at least move money from one gun program to another?"
As educator turned attorney, Kelly Damerow, explained to the Brevard County board, this is not really a choice.
"You're between a rock and a hard place, and you've been put there by the other elected officials of this state and this country. You were told by state legislators you're given enough money for SROs, we know that's not true. You were told you were given an option between SROs and Guardians, and with an unfunded mandate that makes that not really a choice."
-Kelly Damerow, to Brevard County School Board, April 17, 2018
The legislators are requiring schools to have guns in schools programs but they didn't give the school districts enough money to pay for them. That is the wedge to hammer on. Here are some ways to do it based on historical successes.
- Sue to block or reverse the law. That's what cities do when pushed into an unfunded or partly funded mandate
- Demand the programs pay for themselves. This is what conservatives do. Keywords to use, "Balanced budget" "Revenue Neutral and Paygo.
- Create a Sin Tax. When a product that is legal causes community health problems, like tobacco and alcohol, they create a "sin tax"
Create a guns and ammo tax
The gun lobby sees any tax effort as impermissible regulation which violates their constitutional protection, yet taxes are within a state's purview to raise revenue.
The NRA arguments can be countered. This piece, "Taxing Guns, Ammo? Load Up for a Fight," shows some ways to do it.
Find Other Ways to Fund Guns in School
- Suggest that new SROs get paid less. "WHAT!? That's crazy talk!"
- Suggest law enforcement pension reform. "OMG NO! We can't go after police pensions! They are sacred!"
(It's funny, some legislators don't seem to feel the same about cutting teacher pay and pensions. I'm just sayin')
Conservatives love cops, but hate unions. A cop union confuses them. But they fund cop programs. If people with guns are considered the ONLY solution, and teachers won't do it, it's a law enforcement budget issue, not an education budget issue.
One Brevard County school board member, Matt Susin, said that since there isn't enough money for guns in school programs parents should ask for an increase in local property taxes. But there is an alternative, parents can tell legislators directly, "These gun programs are expensive and ineffective. There isn't enough money or people to implement either program, so we want to opt out of both. AND, we want the money from BOTH Guns In Schools programs to be used for non-gun programs."
I've seen many people debating how best to protect kids in schools, hire more resource officers, arm teachers or do both. The Washington Post recently did an analysis of the roles of SROs in school shootings.
"The answer to a key question — How effectively can someone with a gun protect a school from someone else with a gun? — is almost always missing from the discussion."
-Scarred by school shootings by Washington Post, March 25, 2018
The analysis shows that SROs have been ineffective in the mass shootings that make the headlines. The analysis also shows SROs were ineffective in the other incidents where guns are used in a school shootings, targeted shootings.
I know that there are people who believe that SROs in every school is the right solution. When they are asked to account for their failures, they respond with excuses, "Well, next time..." or "We just need more people with guns in the schools!"
Connie Rooke, a military law enforcement veteran with a master's degree in education provided an important point about anyone carrying guns in schools. "They are human, they make mistakes, and it happens every single day."
I understand why people don't want to say bad things about individual SROs, so it’s time to expose the failure of the premise, not the person.
As Rooke said when presenting the board with two binders filled with peer reviewed studies and examples on why more guns in schools is a terrible idea, "Listen to the professionals."
Next: Five Ways to Stop, Slow or Stall Guns In Schools Programs From Growing