Kansas law aims to arm teachers, but misfires with insurance companies

An insurance company is providing the voice of caution when it comes to arming teachers and staff members in Kansas schools.

The state’s knee-jerk reaction to the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. — passing legislation to allow teachers and staff members with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns to class — hasn’t gone over well with the number crunchers at EMC Insurance Cos. in Des Moines, Iowa, who calculate risk.

Utah teachers take a concealed-weapons training class. (Rick Bowmer for AP)
Utah teachers take a concealed-weapons training class.
(Rick Bowmer for AP)

EMC provides insurance to 85 to 90 percent of Kansas school districts and announced it would not insure any school allowing concealed-carry under the new law, which took effect July 1. Don’t blame closet liberals or the anti-gun lobby for this one; insurance company officials told the Des Moines Register it’s a financial, not political, decision:

“We’ve been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” said Mick Lovell, EMC’s vice president for business development. “Our guidelines have not recently changed.”

 

Two smaller insurance companies have agreed with EMC. The decision makes sense to me. Where there are guns, there are accidental shootings. The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to reaffirm its long-standing policy that the safest homes for children are those without guns, going against the beliefs of many of those who embrace the Second Amendment.

A 1998 study published in the Journal of Trauma found that “for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” In other words, guns were involved in accidental shootings, crimes and suicides much more often than in self-defense.

Is there a scenario where an armed teacher could “take out” a shooter and save the lives of students? I suspect it’s possible, but not likely.

That was the opinion of one of the school resource officers I talked with while waiting for my son to finish practice this spring. An Overland Park, Kan. police officer assigned to a school did not want to talk on the record, but he explained why he was against teachers and staff members carrying concealed weapons.

First of all, he emphasized the hours and hours police officers spend in training on weapons. “Do teachers have that kind of time to devote to training?” he asked.

That training involves more than simply having the skill to aim and hit a target, he told me. If you’re defending kids against a shooter, your target is another human being. Could a teacher make the split-second decision to shoot another person without hurting anyone else?

The idea that an administrator or teacher will protect the students before the cavalry rides in may be comforting, but it’s far from realistic, he said.

I’m a mom. I want my kids, and everyone else’s, to be safe in school. But as a mom, I’m also a worrier. Is it safe for teachers to be packing pistols? What about opportunities for mischief or worse? Imagine a curious first-grader — or an angry high school student — finding a teacher’s gun in a drawer or purse. What if a teacher’s weapon discharges unintentionally? And remember that teachers are human, after all: What if a teacher, with easy access to a gun, either feels threatened, perhaps for no valid reason, or becomes angry at a student or another staff member?

Arming teachers was among the actions considered by a committee studying safety for the Blue Valley School District where my son attends school, but it was “not recommended for a variety of reasons,” according to the report.

Maybe someone remembered an incident at the Longbranch (oh, the irony of the name!) Steakhouse in Lenexa, Kan., a nearby suburb when a man with a concealed-carry permit accidentally shot his wife when he reached into his pocket.

For now, at least, the insurance companies have fought to keep a Wild West mentality out of the schools.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

 

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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