Joseph Crowley: Would guns in schools make them safer?

The Legislature recently held hearings on several firearms related bills one of which would bar those with concealed carry permits from bringing guns into schools.  This includes school staff.  Those opposing the legislation suggest schools would be safer if school staff members were allowed to have their guns in school so as to intervene should someone seek to do violence in the school.  Here’s the other side.

Police officers are trained to confront gun-wielding suspects.  In the last several weeks, one police officer was killed by a fellow officer while responding to a shooting.  Another officer died and it was suspected he, too, had died from a bullet fired by one of his comrades while accosting a shooter.

The stories are reminiscent of Cornel Young.  He also died at the hands of a fellow officer.  Also in recent memory is the detective killed by his own gun in the Providence Police Station by a suspect he was questioning.  Another Rhode Island officer died accidentally from a shot by a comrade during a training session.

These are all highly trained police officers dying from police guns.

Now legislators are being asked to vote against a bill that would deny those with concealed carry permits from bringing their guns to school.  Think about it.

There are any number of school employees with concealed gun permits and any number more who might want one should guns be allowed in schools - teachers, administrators, food service staff, custodians, coaches, aides, etc.

First off, a concealed carry permit suggests the firearm be concealed.  Unless teachers are ready to go back to wearing sports jackets and pants suits, the guns are unlikely to be concealed on their persons.  The guns will be in desks, handbags, jacket pockets and the like.  The same holds true for other school employees whose work clothes are not conducive to concealing a weapon.  There has already been a case in a Rhode Island school this year of a permit carrier leaving a weapon in an unattended gym bag. 

Even when a weapon is on the person of the permit carrier, can that person maintain control of it.  What guarantees are there the person cannot be overpowered and have the weapon taken from them?  In one case several years ago, a police officer trying to subdue a trespasser at a school had his weapon drop to the ground.  And there is the aforementioned case of the Providence detective killed with his own gun.  If police officers have trouble maintaining control, what chances does a diminutive food service worker have?

Then there is the actual use of a firearm should an event occur.  As noted above, police officers have killed each other when engaging an active shooter.  Will a highly excited teacher be able to better aim and control his or her firearm than a trained police officer?  Who is likely to be shot?

And, what controls will there be on the use of a weapon in school?  Will they only be used in the case of an active shooter?  What happens when a student becomes menacingly violent?  Will a gun carrier decide deadly force is appropriate to keep someone from being injured?  

Schools are for the majority of students the safest places those students will be in a day.  They are that safe, to a large degree, because the schools are gun free.  There would be a certain irony in a legislator voting to allow guns in school while sitting in the relative safety of a State House in which firearms are barred.  One would think if guns in schools would make the schools safer, guns in the State House would make it safer.  One would hope everyone knows better.

Joseph Crowley of Cranston is a retired educator who served as director of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.

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