With increased incidents of school shootings in America, lawmakers everywhere are deeply concerned with tackling the issue. On Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed the bill, allowing teachers who had received training to carry firearms during class, coming into effect on October 1st. Measures have been met with strong support as well as staunch criticism. This law comes as part of a wider set of school security reforms across the country. After the Sandy Hook shooting, lawmakers in the Texas Senate recently approved a bill that would expand the state’s school marshal program, which allows some school staffers to act as unofficial security and bring guns into schools after receiving training.
Supporters of the Texas and Florida measures argue that these proposals will make students safer by allowing school officials to respond to on-campus shootings, by allowing faster response and act as a deterrent. But these measures have been sharply criticized by students, legislators, and policy experts who note that there’s no evidence backing up the benefits of more guns in schools. “The school board voted on a resolution against arming teachers more than a year ago,” Robert Runcie, the superintendent of the Broward school district, said in a statement. Going on to highlight how detrimental the law would be to student wellbeing “we want our schools to be safe places for teaching and for learning. We do not want to create a psychological impact on our children knowing their teachers have guns, nor create stress on our teachers”. Tony Gregory, Broward County Sheriff, agreed that “having untrained personnel carrying firearms is more likely to create a tragic scenario where innocent people can get killed or injured”. School leaders in Bay County further lent support to the scheme, “it’s a chance to put more armed people on our campuses to combat these guys”.
Instead of solving the problem, this law simply reacts to it, making it a poor way to prevent future incidents. Yes, having armed teachers in schools may decrease the repsonse time to such events and could save lives but we should be looking to prevent them in the first place. Instead, investment in mental health facilities for students should be prioritised, not putting more guns in schools which could then be used against them. The issue of racial profiling of students has also been raised. Racial profiling is a serious problem in America, with ethnic minorities far more likely to be targeted in random stop and searches. This racial profiling could be intensified with the presence of guns in schools, making some students fearful for their safety. There have been many cases of young black males in the US, for example, being mistakenly shot having been racially profiled. The introduction of firearms in the hands of those who are improperly trained will certainly lead to more harm than good. With more fatalities involving guns occurring from accidents than from school shootings, the protective measure poses a greater threat than the problem. This added anxiety introduced into schools means the law will have the inverse effect with many students feeling less safe, severely impacting their wellbeing.
The Guardian Programme was started last year after the Valentines Day Shooting, in which 17 people were killed. It allows non-teaching volunteers to carry firearms in schools as a measure of protection. However, volunteers were hard to find leading the programme to lose popularity. Recent Republican backing has now reignited this scheme, leading to the bill being passed.
While most of Floridian schools have rejected the bill, refusing to let teachers carry firearms within schools, the fact that the law was passed at a state level is a deeply concerning forceast of future American policy towards the issue. It is a question on everyone’s minds of when America will realise the best defence from shootings is to impose strict regulations on firearms, which could lead to a quick turn around, such as was seen in New Zealand