The Washington Post

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.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Listen
Play Video
Quoted
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.