Florida’s New Teacher Carry Law is a Decent First Step
On May 9, 2019 Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed SB 7030 into law, which allows school or contract employees to be armed under Florida’s new Guardian Program. Local district superintendents must appoint these individuals, and then they must receive final approval from the school board. On top of that, staff who wants to be armed must also complete rigorous training and possess a valid concealed carry license. The training course mandates 144 hours of training, which emphasizes proper firearms usage.
Like clockwork, anti-gun commentators sounded off against this legislation, expressing their horror at the prospect of armed teachers. Fierce gun control advocate and 2020 presidential hopeful, Eric Swalwell, criticized this measure. He declared that “More guns is not the solution. Teachers with guns is not the solution.” Instead he believes that the solution to this dilemma is “getting the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people. Period.”
Naturally, with Florida as the epicenter of the gun control debate after the 2018 Parkland shooting, the passage of a law to arm teachers will stir up heated debate. Despite the hand-wringing from gun control advocates, states that have armed personnel on campus are not filled with rampant cases of gun violence.
Research Shows that Arming Teachers is Not a Disaster in the Making
New research published by John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center shows that schools that allow teachers to carry have not experienced shootings during school hours. He noted that schools allowing teachers to carry have “been remarkably safe” and there “has yet to be a single case of someone being wounded or killed from a shooting, let alone a mass public shooting, at a school that lets teachers carry guns.” Lott also found that the “average rate of death or injury from shooting is 0.039 per 100,000 students across all schools,” whereas the rate of death or injury from shooting is 0 per 100,000 in schools with armed teachers.
A Decent Step in the Right Direction
While not an infringement on gun rights, Florida’s newly passed law is a marginal upgrade at best. First of all, it still treats the carry of firearms as a regulated privilege where individuals must jump through plenty of hurdles just to exercise a “right” they supposedly have. However, more fundamental in this discussion is the nature of federal gun-free zones and school autonomy.
Under the bipartisan Gun-Free School Zones Act , which was introduced by 2020 Presidential candidate Joe Biden and then signed into law by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1990, the possession or carry of firearms within one thousand feet of public, private, and parochial elementary and high schools is prohibited. As a result, schools have turned into potential soft targets for those willing to inflict harm.
We’re already witnessing reduced crime rates throughout the nation during the past three decades. Even with the increase of per capita gun ownership, crime rates have continued to fall much to the gun control advocates’ dismay. Curiously, mass shootings continue to take place in gun-free zones. Approximately 98 percent of mass shootings take place in these kinds of venues. Hardly anyone brings this point up, nor do they strike at the root of the problem — the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act .
How To Make Schools Safe
In an ideal world, 1990 GFSZA should be repealed. However, the solution to school safety is not so much about legislation that arms teachers. Instead, it should be more centered on giving school’s the freedom to decide how security services are provisioned in their facilities. If that means arming teachers to the teeth, that is the school’s prerogative. However, certain schools would likely prefer to have armed security personnel instead. In a previous article addressing gun-free zones, Jeff Deist notes there is a “market impulse to outsource services to specialists.”
Deist draws on real-world examples to illustrate this point:
“This is why neighborhoods hire private security patrols, and why celebrities hire professional bodyguards. Not everyone wants to carry a gun or train themselves in gun proficiency. And there is the issue of scale, where individuals might find themselves arrayed against organized criminal gangs.”
Free societies do not entail one-size-fits-all solutions. They deal with rigorous experimentation and the freedom to voluntarily associate and transact with others. Certain types of arrangements will look differently from others. The key is that people that mutually cooperate with each other on a voluntary basis.
In discussions concerning guns at schools — teachers, administrators, parents, etc — not politicians or bureaucrats in far-away jurisdictions like Washington D.C., should be the ones determining security policies on campus. A good place to start is by allowing local jurisdictions to reassert local control over school safety policy. Although Florida’s SB 7030 is not a comprehensive reform, it has started a new conversation on how schools can provide safer environments for students.