The majority of American teachers think arming themselves with guns would make schools less safe, a newly released survey of educators across the country found.
It’s a question floated after every school shooting that gets national attention: Would armed teachers be able to stop a mass shooter in their tracks, possibly saving many lives?
There have been at least 24 shooting incidents on school campuses resulting in injury or death so far in 2023, according to a tracker by Education Week. Last week, the country marked one year since 19 students and two teachers were gunned down at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, marking the deadliest school shooting in the country since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting nearly a decade prior.
One in five teachers surveyed about school safety by the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation said they feel schools would be safer if teachers were allowed to be armed. The majority, 54%, thought schools would be made less safe if teachers could carry, and another 26% said they didn’t think it would make a difference in school safety.
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Still, most teachers said active shooters weren’t their No. 1 safety concern in the classroom.
Here’s what teachers think about safety in schools, according to the survey, conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 14, 2022, and released on Wednesday:
Hundreds of thousands of teachers would carry a gun in school if allowed, researchers estimate
The percentage of teachers who said they were strongly opposed to policies allowing teachers to carry guns on campus, 44%, was far higher than the percentage who said they strongly support them, 6%, the survey found.
While about 20% of the 973 teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade surveyed said they thought schools would be safer if they were allowed to carry guns on campus, 19% said they would personally be interested in carrying a gun at school.
That amounts to about 550,000 teachers nationwide who would want to carry on campus, the report authors estimated based on a nationwide teacher population of about 3 million.
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It is legal for teachers to carry guns on school campuses in at least 27 states, with special permissions or in certain circumstances in some states, according to the pro-gun control Giffords Law Center. The first of those states to pass a low allowing it was South Dakota in 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and the National Rifle Association proposed allowing school personnel to carry, The New York Times reported at the time.
Race, location play a factor in teachers’ views of guns in schools
How teachers viewed guns’ role in on-campus safety was influenced by their own demographic factors and those of the school communities they worked in, study results showed.
White teachers were more likely than Black teachers to say they thought teacher carry policies would make schools more safe; 21% of white teachers and just 9% of Black teachers said so in the study. Among Hispanic teachers, 15% also said teacher carry would make campuses safer.
Broken down by school location, teachers who taught in schools in rural areas were also more likely to agree that teacher carry would help school safety. Thirty percent of rural teachers thought so, while 16% of urban and 15% of suburban teachers agreed.
When asked about whether they would personally like to carry a gun at school, male teachers (27%) were more likely than female teachers (17%) to say they were.
Bullying is the top safety concern for teachers
Just 5% reported that school shootings were their top safety concern. Top concerns from teachers were bullying and cyberbullying, 49%; drugs, 25%; and student fights, 17%. Their concerns varied by age of students taught. Middle school teachers also said self-harm was a top concern, and elementary teachers were concerned about violence against teachers by students.
“Despite the prevalence of anti-bullying programs, everyday school violence is a concern for teachers,” said report author Heather L. Schwartz, senior policy researcher at RAND. “Bullying, not active shooters, was teachers’ most common top safety concern, followed by fights and drugs.”
Teachers also said threats made against schools through social media caused significant disruption to education. More than one-third of the teachers surveyed, 35%, said their schools had been disrupted at least once in the 2021-22 school year by threats, which included shooting and other threats.
Shootings have plagued US schools in 2023
EdWeek found that there have been 24 school shooting incidents with injuries or deaths so far this year, and 168 since 2018.
These are just a few examples:
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