Arming Teachers is Ridiculous

In the wake of this weekend's worldwide outpouring of resistance to gun violence, and with a backdrop of little to no action on funding public schools, the Kansas Legislature is holding a hearing on a bill designed, not only to arm Kansas teachers, but to hold school districts liable should they not allow teachers to carry weapons and the unthinkable happens.

Concealed gun in a handbagThis is a terrible idea, and an incredibly tone-deaf move on the part of legislative leadership. We are stunned.

Nobody we have spoken to sincerely believes this bill (HB 2789) has the will behind it to pass, certainly not on the floor of either chamber if it makes it out of committee. So why is this bill being heard?

The Context

Arming teachers has become one of the ultra-conservatives' favorite new rallying cries in the wake of the Parkland shooting, or rather, in the wake of the tremendous resistance to the NRA that has come since the Parkland shooting. It plays on their assertion that only "good guys with guns" can prevent shootings. It is their one lifeboat in the tidal wave of activism we saw crest this past Saturday across the country. MainStream was there and proud to be one of many partners supporting the March for Our Lives.

The bill also comes on the heels of the Kansas school finance report commissioned (to the tune of $200,000+) by conservative leadership to give the Legislature guidance on what it would take to meet the state's obligations. In a surprise to everyone, rather than deliver a lowball estimate, the report suggested Kansas could need to add as much as $2 billion every year to public school funding. Leaders like Sen. Denning (R), who voted to fund the report, have now come out saying that it is flawed and likely provides no useful information. As a result, school finance remains in purgatory while legislators work behind the scenes to figure it out.

But we have this bill now, the reddest of red herrings drawing our eye away from the ball.

The Concept

Bills that suggest armed teachers are the solution to armed shooters should not be taken seriously, because they do not address even their own suggestions seriously. They do not account for questions about loaded firearms within reach of children. About the responsibility of armed teachers should a firearm go off (intentionally or otherwise). About the chilling effect of guns on classroom learning, behavior, and community. As one Parkland teen put it, "Our school is a prison now."

And it ignores the statistically significant fact that more guns makes us less safe. The bill is nicknamed Kansas SAFER (Kansas Staff As First Emergency Responders), which may be the only clever thing about it.

Why This Bill is Worse

HB 2789 is similar to many bills proposed to arm teachers, but goes one step further on the path to extremism. This bill would hold school districts liable if there is a shooting, and the districts did not allow teachers to be armed. This is incredibly rich coming from a conservative movement that has bent over backwards to protect firearms manufacturers from liability.

Quite simply, this bill has taken a bad idea (arming teachers) and made it even worse (holding schools responsible).

A quick note: the bill has no listed sponsors, because the Legislature has not passed the proposed transparency bill that would require sponsors to be listed, and despite Speaker Ryckman's assertions, it appears that requiring it is the only way it would happen.

We Will Testify, Here's What You Should Do

MainStream will be at the hearing on Tuesday in Topeka. And if social media and our own network is to be believed, so will many, many, many others. Is this what we need, spending our energy on a far-fetched ultra-conservative scheme with little hope of passage? Is it worth it after an exhausting Spring? How much more outrage can we suffer before it becomes too much? 2018 still stretches in front of us, with Walk the Vote, the primary elections, and the general election in November still to come.

Here's our suggestion.

When you talk, or post, or show up in Topeka on this issue, don't waste your energy on the ridiculousness of arming teachers. Instead, tell them to fund our schools, instead of funding metal detectors and armed guards. Tell them to spend money on counselors and social workers, so that children aren't told they are to blame for shootings because they didn't "walk up not out." Tell them to value our teachers, instead of eliminating due process, devaluing teaching certificates, and driving young teachers out of state.

Thank you for all that you do. Change begins with you.

It starts here. Do more than vote.

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