Why more states are arming teachers on campus

Colorado school personnel train to take down an active shooter as part of the FASTER Colorado program.
  • 98% of mass shootings from 1998 to 2022 have taken place in gun-free zones.
  • 51% of voters surveyed between May 27-31, 2022 approve of allowing school personnel the option to be armed on campus.
  • A typical full training program costs $1,000 per school employee

Laura Carno and her team of law enforcement instructors spend their days teaching teachers the skills they hope they will never have to use.

A campus shooting is a nightmare scenario, but she says training and arming school staff is key to saving lives. Having trained more than 250 school employees, Carno’s FASTER Colorado program is a non-profit that offers intensive education on how to immediately respond to school violence, take down an active shooter, and save lives with emergency medical care.

“Having these well-trained, armed teachers, janitors, coaches, lunch ladies — wherever they work in the school — having their firearm concealed and ready for when, God forbid, something happens is the quickest response while law enforcement is getting there,” said Carno. “We know these things are over in just a couple of minutes.”

Twenty states allow K-12 teachers and staff to carry guns on campus to some degree. North Carolina is not one of them; here all schools are “gun-free zones.” According to researchers, those 20 states have had no gun-related injuries or deaths on a campus between 6 a.m. and midnight since 1950, but there were two accidental discharges incidents in which no one was injured. All of this while the trend line on overall campus shootings and deaths nationally has steadily climbed. Between 2001 and 2018, the number of people killed on campuses doubled, and 98% of mass shootings from 1998 to 2022 have taken place in gun-free zones.

“The only message gun free zones say to law abiding people is that you cannot bring your gun in here,” said Carno. “What it says to potential killers is that there are probably no armed people in there.”

Laura Carno, FASTER Colorado

Carno’s work is getting more attention these days, after the massacre of 19 children and two teachers at Ross Elementary School in Texas last week at the hands of a mentally ill, violent, 18-year-old on a suicide mission. Reports say that police entered the school approximately one hour after the first shots were fired.

“What we saw in Uvalde, Texas, just stunned the country,” she said. “There were more than a dozen officers there who just didn’t go in. They were in the hallway outside while children were being killed. I think that’s really shaken America’s parents.”

According to an Economist/YouGov poll taken the week of the Uvalde shooting, 51% of respondents favor allowing teachers and school administrators the option to be armed on campus. (1,500 registered voters surveyed +/- 2.9% margin of error.)

On Capitol Hill meanwhile, calls for more gun control are echoing through the halls as they often do after mass shootings. Democrats in the U.S. Senate need votes from 10 Republicans to pass a new gun control measure. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is reportedly negotiating with a small bipartisan team of lawmakers including Sens. John Cornyn, R-TX; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz, to put one together.

According to those close to the process they may have an agreement this week that could include increased background checks, waiting periods for gun purchases, new school safety and mental health programs, and promoting state red-flag laws. Red-flag laws allow family members, law enforcement, or coworkers to petition the court to confiscate someone’s weapon.

In last week’s shooting in Buffalo, New York, the shooter passed a background check and the State of New York has a red-flag law. In the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, the killer passed up theaters that were known to have armed guards and went to one that did not. In the case of Uvalde and Parkland, Florida, the shooter continued the murder spree until stopped by responding officers and an off-duty border patrol agent with a gun on campus.

“Laws that take guns away from good people, or restricting the rights of good people, don’t work. Law abiding responsible people are going to follow the laws,” said Carno. “But the criminals never do. If more laws made us safer, then Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. should be the safest cities in America; and they simply aren’t.”

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, agrees. On Tuesday, he filed the STOP II, Secure Every School and Protect our Nation’s Children Act, in the U.S. House.

Hudson says the bill is designed to help fund efforts at the state and local level, rather than federal level gun control laws. The legislation allocates $7 billion from unused COVID-relief money to send to school districts, letting them use it at their discretion to improve safety on campus and prevent violence. Among the measures in the bill, $1 billion goes to school districts to spend on their most pressing safety needs, whether it is for additional school resource officers, mental health counselors, or money to upgrade fencing and locks on school buildings.

Schools could also spend the money on active shooter training for school employees. A training program to arm a school employee costs between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on whether the employee already owns a gun. There is also often scholarship money available.

“The students and the public don’t know which person is armed and which person isn’t armed,” said Carno. “It creates a situation where potential killers don’t know how long they will stay alive to do their deed, and it is a big deterrent.”

Another $1 billion in Hudson’s legislation would be spent on hiring and training more school-based guidance counselors across the nation, to identify students who may be at-risk for mental health crisis and violence. Another $5 billion would be allocated toward training for local law enforcement officers in active shooter scenarios, but schools could also use it for training other school personnel.

In a study done by the National Institute of Justice, more than 77% of mass shootings were conducted with a handgun, and in cases involving K-12 school shootings, more than 80% of individuals who engaged in shootings stole the guns from family members. Also among school shooters, 92% were suicidal prior to the crime.

Hudson’s measure comes as Democrats in Congress are moving their bill, the Protect Our Kids Act, which contains eight separate gun-control bills, including measures to raise the age for buying a semi-automatic weapon to 21, red-flag laws, and bans on non-military members having high-capacity magazines. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last week 25-19 along party lines, but Rep. Dan Bishop, R-NC, said during committee that some provisions in it have already been rejected by the courts.

“At least two parts of this proposed hodgepodge raise questions about constitutionality,” said Bishop during committee debate on the bill.

A federal appeals court recently overturned a California law that would have set the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. Ten of the 11 amendments Republican offered to the Protect Our Kids Act were rejected by a vote of the committee. Hudson is filing his bill as a response to the dichotomy in the current conversation over school violence, which is falling along partisan lines.

“Either you support gun control, or you want to do nothing and let kids die.” Hudson told Breitbart. “But those aren’t the only two choices. There is a third choice, and that’s to enact some policies that will actually have an impact, that will actually prevent school shootings.”

Carno agrees, saying there must be a point when both side stop demonizing and concede that no one wants children to die, but admit there may be disagreements on how to get there.

School personnel training at FASTER Colorado

The National Educators Association has fought the idea of arming teachers.  

Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence,” wrote Staci Maiers, in an NEA statement.

“It would be harmful for the left if there were a solution that worked that involved adding more guns to the equation, because the left has this narrative that more guns are bad, fewer guns is better,” said Carno. “We’re saying let’s qualify more guns; more guns in the hands of the right people, the protectors and the defenders.”

Ohio state legislators passed a law last week that would allow local school boards to decide if teachers and school employees can be trained to carry a weapon on campus. Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign the bill this week so teachers could start undergoing the 24 hours of training this summer and be armed on campus by the beginning of the school year.