A Virginia school district unanimously voted on Thursday to permit its teachers to carry guns at school in order to protect students and staff from potential armed threats.
Following the Lee County School Board (LCSB) vote, Lee County became the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first county that allows teachers to pack heat on public school grounds – starting this fall.
“The measure will allow teachers to be armed in the coming school year – possibly as early as October – in each of the district’s 11 schools,” TheBlaze reported. “Now that a plan to arm teachers has been approved, Lee County schools will begin taking applications from teachers interested in being armed on campus.”
Fight guns with guns …
LCSB Chairman Michael Kidwell insisted that without guns, teachers and students are virtually sitting ducks for shooters to mercilessly shoot down by the dozens.
"The only way to fight a gun – if somebody comes through these doors with a gun to shoot our students – is with another gun," Kidwell argued, according to WJHL.
Over the past year, the LCSB has been working on arming its teachers, with most teachers and parents agreeing that school staff needs to be prepared to take down any mass shooter before a tragedy with multiple casualties occurs.
In this day and age – with multiple mass shootings at public schools across the nation – LCSB member Rob Hines believes that merely resting on “gun free zone” policies and hoping for the best just is not enough.
"At least it gives us a chance,” Hines contended, according to WJHL. “If we sat there and did nothing, I couldn't sleep at night. At least we're trying to do something."
However, some gun-control advocates, including lifelong educator Beth Davies – who does not believe teachers should be armed – claims that having more guns on campus will add to the risk, instead of having the effect of deterring would-be mass shooters.
"The more guns that are out there, the more problems we are going to have," Davies voiced Thursday night, as reported by WJHL, after the decision from the unanimous vote was divulged.
Besides winning on the practical argument, armed teachers at Lee County School District (LCSD) also solves many financial dilemmas that schools in the district face as they aim to protect their students.
“The board argues that this is the most financially viable option for keeping kids safe, as the district cannot afford School Resource Officers and metal detectors in every school,” WJHL’s Slater Teague noted.
Even though carrying a gun and being prepared to use it is not for every teacher on the staff, a large number of faculty members are eager to protect their students and themselves with firearms in class.
“Many Lee County teachers have already volunteered to be considered for the role of being armed at their school,” Teague recounted.
Former LCSD Principal Ronald Earley insisted that most of the faculty members on the school’s staff are more than willing to go face-to-face with a school shooter in order to protect just one of their students on campus.
"Sooner or later, it could happen,” Early, who is also a former teacher, told WJHL’s News Channel 11 TV. “And like some of the board members said tonight, we need to be prepared if it does."
Even though most teachers will be eligible to carry firearms on campus this fall – after the LCSD pays for their guns and training – only a handful of teachers on each LCSD campus will be packing.
“Superintendent Brian Austin says there will be a limited number of armed teachers in the 11 schools in Lee County schools, and their names will not be disclosed,” Teague noted. “Those teachers will go through a strict application, screening and training process before being allowed to carry on campus.”
Arming teachers is no novel concept …
Arming teachers with guns might be a new concept in Virginia, but in Texas and numerous other states, having teachers on campus packing heat has become a staple to ensure student safety.
“In Texas, some teachers have carried guns to school for years,” USA Today reported in March in the wake of the Florida mass school shooting killing 17. “The state is home to 172 school districts out of 1,023 statewide that have a policy allowing staff to carry firearms, per the Texas Association of School Boards. Most districts made the decision to arm staff after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut that killed 26 people – mostly young children.”
In fact, an elaborate defensive strategy has been implemented in the Lone Star State, making it much more difficult for would-be-killers to carry out their carnage on school campuses.
“Texas school administrators operating under what’s known as the Guardian Plan are allowed to carry handguns on them or keep them locked in a safe,” USA Today’s Ashley May explained. “Schools receive stipends under the plan to cover ammunition for practice and annual tactical training. The plan is just one of three ways Texas public schools can arm staff. Others include forming police forces and establishing school marshals. Districts also may contract with security firms and law enforcement to patrol campuses.”
And to the northeast, the Show Me State has also taken action steps to protect students from gun-wielding assassins.
“Missouri schools have been arming teachers for years, too,” May added. “Aaron Sydow, the superintendent of the Fairview R-XI School District in West Plains, said when he started in education 20 years ago, he could not have imagined teachers walking the hallways with concealed handguns, but this is a different day and age.”
Even though Sydow is a gun rights advocate, he laments that schools have become war zones over the past decades, making such extreme measures necessary.
"It's sad that it's come to this," Sydow expressed, according to USA Today.
Arming teachers: A growing trend
With Florida being under the national spotlight after the high school shooting that took place in Parkland earlier this year in February, the Sunshine State was poised to become the 15th state to arm teachers back in March after Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) signed an omnibus bill that gave school staff permission to go through law enforcement training preparing them to carry firearms in class.
The extra precautions Florida is now taking to protect its students could be regarded by some as something that should have taken place before the Parkland tragedy occurred, as more than a dozen other states already had teachers protecting their students when the shooting claiming 17 lives occurred.
“Although the notion may seem radical, at least 14 states already arm teachers, according to a VICE News review of state laws and interviews with education department officials and school board associations around the country,” VICE News revealed in March. “Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington.”
On the near horizon, more than half of the states in the U.S. could have armed teachers protecting their vulnerable students.
“Another 16 states give local school boards the authority to decide whether school staff can carry guns, either explicitly or through legal loopholes, but officials said they didn’t know of any instances of armed teachers in those states,” VICE News’ Tess Owen informed. “Louisiana is one of 19 states with legislation pending that would either clear up confusion over existing laws on arming teachers or amend the law to give local school boards the authority to decide.”
Currently, state law permits school districts to arm teachers in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Wyoming, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona. States where legislation to arm teachers is pending include: South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Wisconsin, Nebraska and North Dakota. California, Alaska, New Mexico, Illinois, Virginia and New Hampshire are the only states where such legislation is not yet in the works.
Furthermore, more and more Americans appear to be warming up to the idea of protecting students with guns, as an NBC/ SurveyMonkey poll conducted this spring revealed that 42 percent of Americans believe it is a good idea to arm teachers, with an overwhelming 80 percent of Republicans agreeing. However, the gun control agenda has convinced most Democrats (88 percent) to oppose teachers carrying guns, and 64 percent of independents were also against the idea.