Educators don't need guns

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at    

Educators need a lot of things. They need adequate on time school funding, parental support, dedicated school boards, administrators who’ll back them, copy paper, supplies, adequate preparation time, professional pay, positive working conditions, technology, and a legislature who supports public schools and doesn’t interfere with real teaching and learning.

They don’t need guns.

House Study Bill 692 was originally a $3 million grant program to purchase emergency radios for schools, but gun loving legislators amended the bill (now numbered House File 2652) to focus on firearms training, paying for the gun permitting process, stipends for employees agreeing to be armed, and for purchase of the weapons. The grants would provide $25,000 to each district chosen.

Republicans haven’t managed to enact a school funding (state supplemental aid) bill on time, forcing school districts to guess how much state funding they will receive for next year, as the deadline for certifying their budgets approaches on March 15.

Nevertheless, buying guns for educators is apparently a high priority.

It’s irresponsible.

On a related note, House File 2586, the bill designed to help school districts adopt policies to arm school employees, recently advanced to the full education committee in the Iowa Senate. (House Republicans approved the bill on February 28.)

These two bills are terrible ideas and will make schools more dangerous, for at least four reasons.

Insurance companies will have options.

The Spirit Lake and Cherokee School boards voted to arm school staff last year. Their insurance companies vetoed the idea by threatening to drop their insurance coverage if the districts didn’t rescind the policies.

House File 2586 seeks to avoid that problem by requiring training for staff who are armed at school, and giving districts and employees “qualified immunity from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred pursuant to the application of reasonable force at the place of employment.”

That move may keep insurance companies from dropping coverage, but it won’t keep them from raising liability premiums higher than the Golden Dome of the state capitol. These companies are private entities, and they tend to be risk adverse. Educators trained and permitted won’t stop companies from assessing the risk and cashing in.

We haven’t learned.

We haven’t learned anything from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Trained law enforcement cowered against one man with an assault weapon. Unless schools plan to issue AR-15s to educators, chances are they’ll be outgunned by a school shooter. Going up against a shooter intent on killing with a weapon of war, holding only a pistol, is like shouting at the rain and expecting it to stop. 

There are ways to secure schools, but it will take more than $25,000 grants and inadequate state supplemental aid.

There are no secrets.

Students will know who is armed and where the guns are stored. They will also eventually know the combinations to any locked boxes where they’re stored. That means angry students could also have access to weapons. 

Although this may be hard to admit, the quickest to volunteer to be armed are often educators you don’t want armed. They might be seeking the prestige and power that may come with carrying a weapon.

Overreactions could turn deadly.

Most educators can deescalate violent situations, but there are exceptions. If guns were available, the situation could become deadly instead of just ugly. A community would be hard-pressed to recover from an educator killing a student in the heat of the moment, or completely by accident.

I once joked, given my job as a union representative, that if principals had guns, I might be dead. Some of our interactions were heated and volatile. I’ve stopped joking about that. 

It’s not funny. 

It would be awful if innocent lives were lost because legislators pandered to their base about firearms. Mass shootings might be fueled by a combination of causes like mental health issues or poor parenting. But refusing to acknowledge easy access to guns as part of the problem is refusing to face reality. As several Democratic lawmakers pointed out during the Iowa House debate on House File 2586, most school shooters are current or former students at the school, and many of them use weapons that were stored at their homes.

Guns don’t belong in school.

About the Author(s)

Bruce Lear

  • No to guns, period

    Bruce is exactly right here, and well said. Iowa is the promised land for gun nuts and people willing to use them. The Gazette today carries (in excruciating detail) a story about a fight in a CR bar that ended in a shooting. Somewhere in Iowa everyday, guns kill people so often we’re inured to the news. Iowa even passed a constitutional amendment to keep guns in hands forever. “Good guys” with guns can suddenly turn to bad guys, and that includes women. School entryways can be constructed to monitor doors, but bottom line, gun control works to save lives.

  • "friendly" fire is always tragic but

    it will be especially grim in these circumstances, good luck to the eventual survivors getting disability and or even expert treatment in this seeing-Red state for PTSD…

  • New DMR Poll 60% yes

    New DMR Iowa Poll has 60% approve of teachers being armed, 38% against, and 1% undecided. Let’s hear it for freedom of choice for the individual teachers. If a teacher has taken the appropriate gun safety courses and legally armed give them that choice. Teachers can make that choice for themselves without the union dictating decisions for them.

  • Research has been done on U.S. school shootings, resulting in papers, reports, and at least one book...

    Maybe more attention should be paid to the research.