Some Arkansas school teachers will be packing heat this fall.
The Clarksville School District is arming and training 20 volunteer teachers and staff with 9mm guns to prevent shootings like the ones that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary last December in Newtown, Connecticut.
It will be the first Arkansas school to use a “little-known state law that allows licensed, armed security guards on campus,” according to the Associated Press.
The participating teachers are each given $1,100 to purchase a handgun and holster. The school district is paying $50,000 for ammunition and training at a private facility. After 53 hours of training, the teachers are considered guards. However, the identities of faculty and staff with weapons will be kept secret.
“The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,’ ” Superintendent David Hopkins told the AP. “That’s not a plan.”
After the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut, school safety became a hot issue among educators and politicians on Capitol Hill.
President Barack Obama also got into the national debate. He proposed a sweeping gun-control agenda in January that included 23 proposals encompassing background checks, law enforcement, gun violence research, school safety, and mental health.
Arming teachers wasn’t part of Obama’s plan, but it was for the National Rifle Association. In April, the gun-rights group released its school safety initiative. Led by former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson, who is now running for governor in Arkansas, the NRA called for armed police officers, security guards or staff members in every school.
“While the tragedy in Sandy Hook and other schools around the country has been thoroughly awful, arming our teachers and school administrators is the wrong approach to controlling such rare outbreaks of violence,” Kelly Welch, a criminal justice professor at Villanova University, told TakePart at the time.
Although the Arkansas school district’s actions may seem extreme, it’s hardly alone in taking matters into its own hands. Already this year, seven states, including Kansas, South Dakota, and Tennessee, have passed laws permitting teachers or administrators to carry guns in school.
In early July, school board members in the rural school district of Edgewood, Ohio, voted to allow personnel to carry weapons. And several other Ohio schools districts have already started training teachers to shoot guns.
Teachers and staff at Fairview School in rural West Plains, Missouri, also received weapon training earlier this year. The reasoning behind arming teachers was the distance from the school to the local sheriff’s office—15 minutes.
In Williamson County, Tennessee, the school district opened up bids for gun safes in July. According to The Tennessean, 20 new school resource officers will be placed in the district during the new school year. The safes are needed to store weapons and will cost about $200 each.
While all of this will cost districts money, the school superintendent in Arkansas told the AP that it is likely cheaper in the long run than hiring guards.
“We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens,” he said. “We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas. Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
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