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Uniformed School Resource Officers Aren't the Solution to Stop Mass Public Shootings

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/John Amis

With six murdered at the Covenant School in Nashville at the end of March, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposed over $200 million in new measures to protect schools and prevent more such attacks. One of his proposals is to put “an armed security guard in every school in Tennessee.” Both Republican Senators from Tennessee have offered similar legislation in the form of the federal Safe Schools Act.


Governor Lee understandably wants to do something to prevent this type of violence from ever happening again. But allowing teachers to carry firearms in their classrooms is a much more effective and less costly solution. A bill advanced by a Tennessee state House committee last week would do just that.

Having an armed ally in a school could stop attacks. but identifiable officers are easily targeted.

“A deputy in uniform has an extremely difficult job in stopping these attacks,” noted Sarasota County, Florida, Sheriff Kurt Hoffman. “These terrorists have huge strategic advantages in determining the time and place of attacks. They can wait for a deputy to leave the area or pick an undefended location. Even when police or deputies are in the right place at the right time, those in uniform who can be readily identified as guards may as well be holding up neon signs saying, ‘Shoot me first.’ My deputies know that we cannot be everywhere.”

There's a good reason air marshals on planes don't wear uniforms.

If you have an armed officer in a school, don’t put him in uniform and make him readily identifiable. Give him a staff position in the school so it won’t be obvious that he is the one person with a gun.

The prospect of armed resistance deterred the Covenant School shooter from choosing another target. “There was another location that was mentioned, but because of a threat assessment by the suspect of too much security, they decided not to,” said Nashville Police Chief John Drake.


Unfortunately, no one at the Covenant school had a gun to fight back with.

These murderers count on gun-free zones to ensure they will be the only armed person. Last year, the Buffalo, NY shooter wrote in his manifesto: “Areas where CCW permits are outlawed or prohibited may be good areas of attack.” 

Unfortunately, national media refuses to report such explicit statements by attackers. Nor do they report that 94% of mass public shootings occur in places where civilians are banned from having guns.

 Violating gun-free school zones in Tennessee means a six-year prison term. While that is a severe penalty for law-abiding citizens, an additional six years for someone such as the Covenant school mass murderer is irrelevant, even if they had lived. The murderer would already be facing six life sentences or the death penalty. 

 Twenty states already allow teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns. Any teacher with a concealed handgun permit can carry in Utah and New Hampshire. In other states, school boards or superintendents decide the policy. 

 In the thousands of schools where teachers are permitted to carry, no one has been wounded or killed in an attack during school hours. Only at schools where guns are banned have people been hurt or killed in school shootings. 


Other common concerns about allowing teachers to carry guns — such as students getting a hold of the weapons or teachers losing their tempers — have never actually occurred.

 Surveys show that criminologists and economists strongly support abolishing gun-free zones in places such as schools.

 President Biden is right that we shouldn't impose security measures which make schools resemble prisons. There is another alternative. Instead of posting gun-free zone signs in front of schools, let’s post signs which warn attackers that there are teachers with concealed handguns.

Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “Gun Control Myths.”

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