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Arming Pennsylvania’s Teachers: A Conversation Starter

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee has passed a measure allowing local school boards to decide if staff can carry concealed guns on school property. Those voluntarily carrying would be required to have a concealed carry permit and go through police-related firearms training.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Don White, an Indiana County Republican. It would amend existing law that bans weapons on school property.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reports White told the committee on April 19 that teachers had come to him saying they wanted to defend their students and themselves, giving them “something more powerful than an eraser to throw at these people.”

“To be clear, this bill is not about the Second Amendment,” White said in a news release. “It’s about permitting the 500 school districts of this commonwealth to have greater choices when it comes to protecting our most precious resources -- our children.”

The committee voted 9-3 to move the measure to the full Republican-controlled Senate for consideration. But Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has indicated he will veto the bill; he favors more funding for “school resource or police officers.”

“School personnel shouldn’t be told that the only help they will get from Harrisburg to make schools safer is the option to carry a loaded gun around their students,” Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott told the newspaper.

The usual suspects have lined up against the measure, from CeaseFirePA, to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). And some of their arguments are simply intellectually vapid.

To wit, CeaseFirePA’s Shira Goodman says White’s measure fails to address the safe storage of guns that would be permitted in schools. Perhaps that’s because school staff would be carrying the guns, Ms. Goodman?

Additionally, she talks of the “burden” the legislation would place on teachers. But, again, it’s not a mandate. The White bill gives local school boards the option of allowing teachers and staff to voluntarily carry.

PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak said his union supports “the use of appropriately trained school safety officers” but opposes “arming teachers, education support staff and other school staff.”

“PSEA is for strategies that keep students safe,” he told the newspaper. “This bill doesn’t keep students safe.”

As if leaving students as sitting ducks in a shooting gallery does, Mr. Oleksiak?

White stresses that time is a critical element when a violent incident occurs in a school. “Many schools in rural areas rely on state police coverage, which means response times can vary.’

“Senate Bill 383 gives trained school personnel the opportunity to serve as first responders,” he said.

And to the charge that staff-carried guns in schools will increase the risk to children, White reminded that there are thousands of armed teachers and administrators in schools across the country “and there has never been an incident where they have shot the wrong person, had their weapons taken by a student or used a weapon inappropriately.”

As gun scholar John R. Lott Jr. notes, “Letting teachers and staff carry concealed handguns is nothing new in the United States. And there has been good reason for allowing it -- police virtually always arrive after an attack has occurred.

“Police are very important to fighting crime,” Lott stresses, “but stopping mass shootings is a uniquely difficult challenge. For police and security guards, wearing a uniform is often akin to wearing a neon sign saying ‘Shoot me first.’”

Lott’s research shows that 24 states now allow teachers and staff to carry on school property. At least 40 school districts in neighboring Ohio allow teachers to carry guns, he says.

“Gun-free zones are magnets for murders,” Lott reminds. “Even the most ardent gun-control advocate would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on their home. Let’s stop putting them elsewhere.”

Sen. Ryan Aument, a Lancaster County Republican, another Senate Education Committee member, says Sen. White’s “bill would allow for conversations to take place at the local school district level where I think those conversations ought to take place.

“We’re essentially reaffirming local control,” he said.

That some in this debate don’t even want that conversation to take place is a sad testament indeed to how out of touch Pennsylvania’s gun-control advocates and the educratic establishment truly are.

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