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Willard Elementary School ALICE Training

Marissa Dresang, Natrona County High School nurse, plays the part of assailant using an airsoft pistol during an active shooter drill in 2015 at Willard Elementary School in Casper. Several Wyoming school districts are weighing whether to arm teachers.

File, Star-Tribune

The recent massacre at a Florida high school has left school districts across the country looking for solutions to prevent more children from being gunned down in their classrooms. And Wyoming is no different.

Natrona County school board members have been discussing options for protecting students from gun violence on campus. And among the possible solutions, some board members have proposed arming teachers and staff.

Last year, the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill allowing individual school districts to arm teachers if they so choose. And some districts across the state have looked into it. A few appear to be pursuing the option.

And while we understand the Natrona County board’s impulse to explore all the options when it comes to student safety, arming school staff is rife with risks.

For one, students go to school to learn, and arming teachers only creates an atmosphere of fear in a place that should always feel safe above all else. Turning classrooms into warzones isn’t going to foster an environment of learning.

And then there’s the added issue of cost. Natrona County closed four schools this year and displaced hundreds of students. Where will districts find the money to arm and train teachers throughout the district? Not to mention the mental health evaluations and safety protocols that would be required to avoid lawsuits. We’d expect districts’ insurance rates would increase if schools have guns inside.

But even if the money was there to make this financially feasible, and the results would have no effect on students’ capacity to learn, the bottom line is that arming teachers would not eliminate the problem. In fact, it could make a school shooting even deadlier.

Giving handguns to teachers and asking them to engage any killer who enters the school with an assault rifle, perhaps with the intent to die and with the obvious upper hand, is not a fair fight.

More gunfire means more chances of students being shot. Firefights are loud and chaotic. Confused and scared people would be running frantically in all directions. The likelihood that someone will be accidently shot is considerable. And the training required to engage in a gunfight with an active shooter, who has the advantage of surprise and a more accurate, powerful weapon, is well beyond what the average person is capable of.

And adding shooters to the situation only makes it far more difficult for the police when they arrive at the scene. They’re then expected to determine which of the shooters is the bad guy. And that will only increase the possibility of more casualties while they try to figure it out, and raise the possibility they take down a teacher by mistake.

Some proponents of arming teachers argue that it would act as a deterrent to shooters and prevent the violence in the first place. But many of the recent school shootings happened with armed guards or officers on duty. And if trained police officers don’t deter homicidal rampages, what will teachers do?

Moreover, many school shooters have armed themselves with assault rifles. That sort of firepower would be difficult to stop for even a trained person with a pistol.

There are other solutions to school safety that don’t come with these risks, such as doors that lock from the inside, bulletproof windows and metal detectors, as well as preventative strategies like supporting at-risk youth.

We’re glad that board members are already discussing these alternatives to arming teachers.

Because bringing guns into schools is not the answer to keeping gun violence out of them. This is one issue the school board should consider so they can rule it out.


Opinion Editor

Dallas Bower joined the Star-Tribune copy desk in June 2017. She studied English at the University of Wyoming. Her favorite book is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, or Harry Potter, depending on the day.

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