Mon, May 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

More than 30 mishaps from armed adults at schools

Amid a nationwide US push to arm teachers or add more armed guards, a review of publicly reported mishaps since 2014 suggests that doing so would almost certainly have unintended consequences

by Ryan Foley and Larry Fenn  /  AP

Illustration: Yusha

They are the “good guys with guns” that the National Rifle Association (NRA) says are needed to protect students from shooters: a school police officer, a teacher who moonlights in law enforcement and a veteran sheriff.

Yet, in a span of 48 hours in March, the three were responsible for gun safety lapses that put students in danger.

The school police officer accidentally fired his gun in his Virginia office, sending a bullet through a wall into a junior high-school classroom. The teacher was demonstrating firearm safety in California when he mistakenly put a round in the ceiling, injuring three students who were hit by falling debris. The sheriff left a loaded service weapon in a locker room at a Michigan junior high school, where a sixth-grader found it.

All told, an Associated Press review of news reports collected by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive revealed more than 30 publicly reported mishaps since 2014 involving firearms brought onto school grounds by law enforcement officers or educators. Guns went off by mistake, were fired by curious or unruly students, and were left unattended in bathrooms and other locations.

“If this can happen with a highly trained police officer, why would we give teachers guns?” interim superintendent Lois Berlin of the Alexandria, Virginia, school system asked after the incident involving the officer whose accidental discharge put a bullet through a wall at George Washington Middle School.

The officer was placed on leave and is under investigation.

Amid a nationwide push to arm teachers or add more police officers and armed guards, the review suggests that doing so would almost certainly have unintended consequences. The accidents are rare, but the actual number is probably higher because schools are not required to report them. They have also frightened students, outraged parents, prompted disciplinary and criminal investigations and left at least nine people injured.

Some insurance companies have refused to cover schools that allow non-law enforcement personnel to be armed and many school employees have said in surveys that they would feel less safe if more of their colleagues were carrying weapons.

Nevertheless, calls to encourage districts to add more armed educators and officers have intensified since the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and educators dead.

Speaking on Friday to the NRA convention in Dallas, US President Donald Trump called for allowing trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in schools, along with more armed security guards.

The best deterrent to would-be school shooters is “the knowledge that their attack will end their life and end in total failure,” he said. “When they know that, they’re not going in.”

The US White House in March pledged to provide aid to state and local agencies to provide firearms training for school personnel and to recruit more veterans and retired officers into education. At least a dozen states have considered bills this year that would encourage more armed officers, security guards or teachers in public schools.

Supporters of allowing more school personnel to carry weapons say proper training would prevent such incidents.

“It’s usually the person behind the gun who determines the outcome,” said US Senator Dennis Pyle, a Republican from Kansas and supporter of a stalled bill that would have prohibited insurance companies from charging “unfair discriminatory” rates to schools that arm their staff.

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