Armed at School—The Changing Landscape of Guns on K-12 Campus

For many students and teachers, summer vacation is now just a fond memory. Getting ready to go back to school has always included buying supplies and new clothes, but the campus environment that most of us remember has changed over time, and today’s educators and administrators face a challenging and difficult question:

Should weapons be allowed on campus?

For many people, the answer comes easily. There are advocates for both sides, but they also share a common belief: students and teachers should not be afraid in the classroom. Since the issue is arising on a daily basis in schools across the country, we felt you deserved a more in-depth look at what you may or may not be hearing on the daily news.

Armed School Marshals on the Rise

In 2013, just six months after 20 children and 6 adults lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the governor of Texas enacted HB 1009, the Protection of Texas Children Law, creating school marshals, a broad “new category of law enforcement officer[s].” Since then, two additional laws permitting school marshals in public two-year junior colleges as well as private schools have been enacted. Even with these changes, which are intended to make Texas schools safer, the number of schools utilizing the program is surprisingly small. In fact, Texas school districts employ 700,000 people statewide, but “only 71 [people] were certified as school marshals between the law’s inception [and August 10, 2018],” not even 1% of the Texas school employee population.

School Marshal Training Far Exceeds CCW Required Training

While obtaining a CCW permit in Texas requires only a few hours of firearms instruction plus online or classroom study, the marshal program training can only be described as extensive. Most training programs require 80 hours of training conducted by law enforcement officers, yearly multi-day refresher courses, target practice, hands-on weapons training, practice scenarios for active shooter engagement, and instruction regarding the use of lethal force as well as safeguarding possible victims. Many potential marshals have already undergone the requisite background check, written exam, and shooting tests that are required in order to get a handgun license in the state. These programs go above and beyond to ensure that armed individuals are able to engage appropriately without harming others.

Identity Unknown

As other school districts grapple with making similar decisions, the Texas school marshals have one key thing in common – their identity is unknown but often clearly announced via signs on school property warning that employees are armed. While parents and even other teachers are dissatisfied with such anonymity, this approach affords the marshals a level of safety and protects them in cases where a shooter does his or her homework and targets a specific environment. For marshals, the element of surprise is vital.

On- or Off-Body Carry

For school marshals, weapons must either be kept in a locked safe or carried on-body. There are no other options. Many campuses have biometric (fingerprint scanning) safes containing a weapon, bulletproof vest, and ammunition, but on-body carry continues to offer the quickest response, so choosing appropriate work apparel that safely holsters a weapon and keeps it at the ready can mean the difference between defusing a situation quickly or losing time attempting to retrieve a weapon. For marshals in educational or administration roles, a customizable concealed carry suit coat, blazer, or sport jacket is a worthwhile investment. It ensures the weapon is not only one you’re familiar with and shoot regularly, but that it is instantly available.

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As the rest of the country grapples with whether or not to arm teachers, it’s easy to see that the school employees in Texas are not flocking in droves to take up arms. Rather, they are proceeding cautiously on an individual basis. But Texas is far from alone in adopting such measures. Most people would be surprised to learn that there are currently 19 U.S. states that allow “anyone with permission from [a] school authority” to carry a weapon on a K-12 campus. Lawmakers and citizens may continue to butt heads on this issue, but America is quietly changing legislation to protect its own.