Essay on How to Prevent Mass Shootings

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The Relationship between State Gun Policy & Mass Shootings

Gun control is a much more widely debated subject when compared to as recent as two decades ago. This has occurred due to the increase in mass shootings in the United States. In response, the idea of teachers being armed has been suggested by officials such as Donald Trump, who also suggested they should receive a bonus. There are many sides to this argument, however, there is a clear correlation between lax gun policies and mass shootings. Specifically, this paper will examine state gun policies that benefit potential mass shooters along with statistics that prove this argument. In addition, evidence will be provided supporting policing that allows teachers to carry firearms in the classrooms, with the ambition to decrease mass shootings.

While arming teachers increases classroom protection, it also introduces new risks in schools. The National Association of School Resource Officers is against arming teachers due to the threat against law enforcement and the school community (Arming Teachers, n.d.). The Executive Director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association believes that “The more guns that are coming into the equation, the more volatility and the more risk there is of somebody getting hurt.” (Patterson, 2018) A survey consisting of 500 American teachers concluded that almost 3 quarter opposed the idea of arming teachers (Brenan, 2018). In addition, 63 percent of students’ parents opposed arming teachers (Arming Teachers, n.d.). Most of the school community opposes involving teachers with guns.

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It is important to recognize that using a gun requires hundreds of hours of training. Law enforcement officers on average receive 168 hours of weapons training (Reaves, 2016). Unfortunately, states that arms teachers provide much less than 168 hours of training. In fact, a few states require no training to carry a gun (Arming Teachers, n.d.). Highly trained law enforcement believe that accuracy is significantly decreased when engaged in an intense gunfight. Thus, it is essential for anyone carrying a weapon to receive extensive training in how to handle it.

Having teachers armed in schools lead to many more dangers than advantages. One key danger that many do not recognize is the risk of shootings increase. One in favor of arming teachers would most likely believe the opposite. However, access to firearms increases the risk of death by suicide three times in addition to a 100% increase in the risk of death by homicide (Anglemyer, Horvath, & Rutherford, 2014). The United States has seen several incidents of guns being discharged by school staff. One incident occurred when a Spanish teacher was terminated. The next day, he returned with an assault rifle disguised in a guitar case and killed the headmaster and himself (Nelson, 2019). Additionally, there have been several unintentional gunshots fired by school officers and teachers. In general, arming teachers is a liability. Various insurance companies were unwilling to provide insurance to teachers carrying weapons in school (Hiltzik, 2018).

There are a few recommendations that may prevent mass shootings and gun violence. This consists of extreme risk laws, being able to restrict a high-risk person from having a gun. In addition, if firearms are stored safely, responsibly, and securely, unauthorized access will decrease. If states that allowed the open carrying of weapons required a background check and minimum age of 21, this would make guns extremely difficult for a minor to obtain (Arming Teachers, n.d.). In terms of the school setting, security upgrades, preparing for the worst, and threat assessment programs can make the environment much safer.

In terms of gun control, statistically speaking, the looser a State’s gun laws, the more mass shootings it has. Researchers have recently discovered this trend, however, many would believe this through common sense. On average, a mass shooting kills four or more people every 47 days. This trend has occurred since June 2015. When compared to the 1990s, the average was much less at once every 183 days (Molteni, 2019). In comparison, Hawaii has not witnessed a mass shooting for over twenty years. Whereas in the past three years, Florida has had six mass shooting incidents (Molteni, 2019). Congress has not attempted to pass a single national gun law after a mass shooting. Instead, individual state legislatures pass these laws.

Despite alarming statistics, mass shootings represent a small fraction of all gun deaths. This has made researching mass shootings increasingly difficult, until very recently. Epidemiologists at Columbia University used FBI crime data from 1998-2015 to calculate the annual mass shooting rate of each state (Molteni, 2019). Interestingly, researchers found that states rather completely restrict gun control, or permit it without restrictions. There are very few states that are in the middle in addition to the majority not restricting gun control. (Molteni, 2019). Lead author Paul Reeping states, “One of the most interesting things about this data is that we aren’t seeing a full spectrum because there just aren’t that many states directly in the middle.”

Research also found that mass shooting rates increased by 11.5% for every 10-point relaxation in gun control (Molteni, 2019). Referring to Texas and Ohio, where two shootings occurred in the span of 24 hours, their gun control regulations are amongst the laxest. For instance, one can legally purchase semiautomatic rifles with large-capacity magazines. It’s worth noting that only six states in addition to DC have banned the purchase of military-style weaponry. Stricter state gun control leads to fewer suicides in addition to reducing the number of premature deaths by 50% (Molteni, 2019).

Having teachers armed with guns in the classroom is a widely debated topic. Paul Hankins, a high school teacher finds the idea to “run, hide, fight” more appealing. Maureen S. Rush, superintendent of the University of Pennsylvania police department, believes that ''You don't want to have a gun that's available to a student or another worker who may have mental health issues,'' Some suggest that metal detectors may prevent guns from entering the school. Experts counter this theory with the belief that an alarm would not stop a gunman (Hartocollis & Fortin, 2018). However, they can be useful in areas with a high rate of gang activity, such as Chicago. Furthermore, lockdown drills prepare students to act fast in the event of a mass shooting. Speed is the most important factor as shooters tend to not target rooms that appear vacant (Hartocollis et al., 2018).

Despite the widely debated pros of arming teachers, the cons tend to outweigh them. For instance, the weapons effect posits that the increasing presence of guns increases the chance of using them (Should teachers be armed? n.d) More obviously, it provides the shooter with ready access. There have been instances of mass shootings in restricted states, however, if guns are closer to home the likelihood of that person performing the shooting increases. Lastly, it places an unnecessary burden on teachers to receive training in firearms. Teachers work at the school to teach rather than be security guards. In addition, teachers are responsible for the costs associated with weapons training (Should teachers be armed? n.d). The profession does not pay high enough for its employees to work two professions. Teachers tend to not want to carry firearms as they consider them dangerous to themselves and their surroundings (Greene, 2019).

Some states have started to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom. In Texas, this is present in most schools. Trump believes that teachers care for the children more than any security officer would, thus they should carry weapons. Dr. Marquenta Sands Hall argues that school resource officers “care for the children and build relationships with students and staff. and that “you must love the job to be a school resource officer” (CNN, 2018). In addition, she believes that school safety must be a top priority in order to reduce future mass shootings (CNN, 2018).

It is evident through statistics that states with weaker gun control regulations are more prone to mass shootings. Recent research has determined that the most restrictive state is Massachusetts while Vermont is the most permissive state (Keeping, Cerdá, Kalesan, Wiebe, Galea, & Branas, 2019). The study found that states that are 10 units more permissive typically showed an 11.5 percent increase in the rate of mass shootings per million (see figure 1). In addition, states with more gun ownership had a 35.1 percent higher occurrence of mass shootings per million (see figure 2). The study concluded that states with more permissive gun control and ownership laws had a significantly higher occurrence of mass shootings (Repping et al., 2019). This divide between permissive and restrictive states is only increasing.

It has been widely claimed that mental illness, rather than access to weapons, increases the likelihood of mass shootings. Even Donald trump has claimed that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger” (Johnsen, & Woodward, 2019). Despite popular belief, people with mental illness are much more likely to be a victim of violence, not a perpetrator. The APA concluded that “mental illness accounts for only 1% of annual gun-related homicides” (Johnsen et al., 2019). Gun-related homicide is one person shooting another to death, not necessarily a mass shooting.

Many have also suggested that violent video games play a role in deciding to commit mass shootings. However, there is no research to support this correlation. A 2002 Secret Service study concluded that the analyzed shooters played little-to-no violent games (Johnsen et al., 2019). Rather, most mass shooters have an extensive history of domestic violence. One example would be the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The perpetrators had a long history of stalking and abusing women (Johnsen et al., 2019). A better solution for Donald Trump would be to restrict those with domestic violence backgrounds from purchasing firearms, as this has proven to decrease gun deaths.

Other findings have supported the notion that an increased gun presence increases the likelihood of a mass shooting to occur. For instance, concealed carry policies are highly associated with an increase in firearm homicide deaths (Johnsen et al., 2019). In addition, a lack of background checks correlates with higher gun violence, representing a need for more strict background checking. After the assault rifle ban expiry in 2004, mass shootings increased by 183 percent (Ingraham, 2018). During the ban, the mass shooting rate decreased by 43 percent (Klarevas, 2016). A new ban on assault rifles would decrease a state’s amount of gun-related deaths.

Arming teachers with guns in the classroom poses more risks than apparent advantages. First off, the weapons effect becomes present to the teacher and their surroundings. Furthermore, it has become apparent that states that are more gun-permissive tend to have more occurrences of mass shootings per million when compared to the most restrictive states. Finally, there are school resource officers that receive extensive training on the use of firearms, showing that teachers do not need to sacrifice time and money in order to receive minor firearm training. Teachers should not receive a raise for carrying a gun as this encourages colleagues to do the same. Overall, the student does not benefit enough for a teacher to possess a firearm in the classroom.

References

  1. 14 Arming Teachers Pros and Cons – Should Teachers Be Armed? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://futureofworking.com/14-arming-teachers-pros-and-cons-should-teachers-be-armed/
  2. Anglemyer, A., Horvath, T., & Rutherford, G. (2014). The accessibility of firearms and risk for suicide and homicide victimization among household members: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 160, 101–110. Retrieved from https://www.suicideinfo.ca/wp-content/uploads/gravity_forms/6-191a85f36ce9e20de2e2fa3869197735/2018/08/The-Accessibility-of-Firearms-and-Risk-for-Suicide-and-Homicide_oa.pdf
  3. Arming Teachers Introduces New Risks Into Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://everytownresearch.org/arming-teachers-introduces-new-risks-into-schools/
  4. Brenan, M. (2018, March 16). Most US teachers oppose carrying guns in schools. Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/home.aspx
  5. CNN. (2018, February 24). Inside school where teachers carry guns [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw-4ZjROjkY
  6. Greene, P. (2019). Did I Need A Gun In My Classroom? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/petergreene/2019/05/15/did-i-need-a-gun-in-my-classroom/#68ca8c141120
  7. Hartocollis, A., & Fortin, J. (2018, February 24). What Experts Say About Armed Teachers and School Safety. New York Times, p. A13(L). Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.libproxy.wlu.ca/apps/doc/A528687384/AONE?u=wate18005&sid=AONE&xid=d9ae77a2
  8. Hiltzik M. (2018, February 26). One big problem with the idea of arming teachers: insurance companies won't play along, and for good reason. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com
  9. Klarevas, L. (2016). Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
  10. Molteni, M. (2019, August 6). The Looser a State's Gun Laws, the More Mass Shootings It Has.
  11. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/
  12. Nelson, R. (2019, February 14). “My school shooter was a teacher,” Jax school shooting survivor speaks out against arming teachers. Actions News Jax. Retrieved from https://www.actionnewsjax.com/
  13. Patterson, B.E. (2018, March 8). America’s police chiefs call BS on arming teachers. Mother Jones. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/
  14. Reaves, B.A. (2016) State, and local law enforcement training academies, 2013. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/slleta13.pdf
  15. Reeping, P. M., Cerdá, M., Kalesan, B., Wiebe, D. J., Galea, S., & Branas, C. C. (2019). State gun laws, gun ownership, and mass shootings in the US: cross-sectional time series. BMJ, 364(1502), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l542
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