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In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, one idea put forward to help prevent school shootings was to allow teachers or other staff to carry guns — either concealed or openly — in schools. But the idea of concealed weapons in schools raises safety and security concerns.
So far, there's been limited acceptance of the idea of arming teachers and other school staff, with only a few states proceeding past the stage of considering legislation that would expand the ability to carry a firearm in a school. In a survey by Building Operating Management, 93 percent of respondents said that no one other than law enforcement officials were permitted to carry guns on school grounds.
The idea of allowing teachers or other school staff to carry guns raises some pretty serious concerns, says Sean Ahrens, global practice leader, security design and consulting, Aon Global Risk Consulting. First is this possibility: During an incident, police enter the building and, upon turning a corner, see a teacher or other staff member with a drawn gun. How do they determine whether they're looking at an aggressor or a responder?
"They're going to see it as a threat," Ahrens says, because in such situations, chaos can prevent a successful determination of whether someone is a threat or not.
In addition, police officers will be more likely to respond correctly under pressure if something goes wrong with a firearm, such as a jam. "Officers know how to deal with that. Some have back-up revolvers. Some know they have to clear the chamber. (But) some people will just freeze. They won't know what to do," Ahrens says.
The other major issue, Ahrens says, is the — hopefully remote, but still necessary to consider — possibility that either a teacher will open fire or a student will take a gun away. One way to potentially mitigate both of these issues is by having a school resource officer instead of arming staff.
"If you're going to have anybody be armed, it should be a police officer," Ahrens says, "because they'll be known by the police department, there will be an ability for that officer to communicate that there's an armed police officer in the building, and there's a better opportunity to respond to the incident."
Concealed Weapons In Schools Raises Safety, Security Questions
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