Arming our public schools

Arming our public schools

The deeply ingrained firearm culture has expanded yet again, this time to Oklahoma public schools.  Governor Mary Fallin signed off on House Bill 2014 earlier this week.  This new law authored by freshman representative Jeff Coody of HD 63 (Lawton) is intended to provide an extra level of security by allowing a trained school employee to carry a handgun on school property.  The authorized employee will be required to be a reserve peace officer or hold a security guard license.  This piece of legislation moved through the legislative process with relative ease.  The best part of it was the amendment by Senator Don Barrington (R-Lawton) which saves the state from funding the new law.  The cost of the required training will be relegated to the respective school districts that opt for it.

It is easy to be for something that is viewed by a decided majority as a universal good.  How can anyone not be for a measure aimed at enhancing the security of our school children?  It remains to be evaluated if this extra measure of safety truly backs up its intention.  The majority of those in favor of this legislation seem to have no problem accepting NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s assertion, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  What I find so bothersome about this is a seeming disregard for available data supporting the safety of institutions of higher learning which have gun-free campus policies.  If such policies work for universities then why not public primary and secondary institutions?  My question remains though that if any public school in this state which heretofore has had a policy of being gun-free without any adverse incidents, why must we now introduce the presence of armed staff?  As a response to school shootings, will this really have any impact?

School shootings have been with us since before the founding of the Republic.

I would not bring up policies of universities regarding this issue if the results of gun-free campuses were not noteworthy.  Although these findings are rather dated, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study showed the overall homicide rate at post-secondary institutions was 0.07 per 100,000 in 1999.  Also, a later Department of Justice study found that 93% of violent crime against college students occurred off campus, 72% of which occurred at night.

I would not think many have a problem with LaPierre’s conjured visual of a “good guy with a gun.”  What causes concern is a bad guy getting control of the good guy’s gun, control in an environment which previous to this law had no gun in it, at least legally speaking.  Even though HB 2014 confined the arming of staff strictly to public elementary and secondary schools, it places lethal weapons where there were none before regardless who controls them.  The overwhelming majority of 4400 colleges and universities prohibit the carrying of firearms on their campuses.  In the event of one or more bad outcomes of easy access to firearms in our schools, will the public be willing to petition their representatives to walk back this policy?  Public mandates for programs like school lunches have had overwhelming success.  This mandate to arm at least one school staff member still has its fair share of question marks.  Ready or not we are all about to find out if this added level of security is effective or even necessary.  Such was our week along the Mother Road’s most conservative stretch.