Reading, writing and guns for teachers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
A woman cries as she leave the Uvalde Civic Center following a shooting earlier in the day at Robb Elementary School, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, grabbed some headlines this week, and possibly garnered some votes, with a plan to arm school teachers and employees. Under Mr. Mastriano’s bill, school employees who meet certain requirements could decide to undergo training that would allow them to carry a gun in school.

Despite the growing urgency to maintain safe schools, arming teachers and school employees remains a risky idea that Pennsylvania should reject.

Mr. Mastriano’s bill, now in the Senate Education Committee, calls for certified firearms training of up to 30 hours, as well as a concealed carry permit, to carry a firearm on school property.

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License-to-carry permits in Pennsylvania reveal absolutely nothing about the ability of any of their 1.5 million holders to handle firearms. Incredibly, Pennsylvania requires no training for a concealed carry permit.

Nor do classroom, range or simulated tactical training adequately prepare people to make split-second, life-or-death decisions, or handle shooters who shoot back. Even law enforcement officers don’t always handle active shooters appropriately, as the tragic mass murder in Uvalde, Texas, showed. Nineteen elementary school students and two teachers were killed on May 24 while local law enforcement failed to respond swiftly.

If some cops don’t get it right, why should the public expect English teachers and counselors to?

Politicians and school administrators have debated the value of arming teachers and school staff for two decades. The idea has recently gained traction following a series of deadly mass shootings in schools.

More than half of the nation’s states now permit school employees to carry firearms on school grounds. Last month, neighboring Ohio enacted a law that would enable school staff to carry a gun into school, with just 24 hours of training.

But guns and classrooms don’t mix: Weapons can discharge accidentally. They can get into the hands of curious or suicidal children or potential killers. In the chaos and turmoil of a gunfight, school staff could injure or kill children or other school employees.

Not surprisingly, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, representing more than 187,000 teachers and other education professionals, opposes the bill.

For some gun rights advocates, the answer to gun violence will always be more guns. If that were true, the United States, with more guns than people, would be the safest nation in the world, instead of leading most of the world — and all economically comparable nations — in gun violence.

Limiting entry points to schools, developing disaster plans with local first responders, in-school security or police officers, and lockdown drills are among the many more prudent ways to bolster school safety.

The risks of Mastriano’s Senate Bill 1288 bill outweigh any potential rewards.

— From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP.