McDaniel takes aim at gunslinger teachers

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion on Thursday that will prevent teachers and administrators in state public school districts from being employed as armed security guards. We applaud McDaniel’s appeal to both legal and common sense.

According to an Arkansas News Bureau report, McDaniel said the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies is not authorized to license a political subdivision such as a school district to provide armed security.

“Simply put, the code in my opinion does not authorize either licensing a school district as a guard company or classifying it as a private business authorized to employ its own teachers as armed guards,” McDaniel said in the opinion requested by state Rep. Hank Wilkins, D-Pine Bluff.

In a word, teachers and school administrators have no business carrying weapons at work. Even so, more than a dozen districts ran ahead of the pack in getting a license or implementing teacher/armed guard training. The Clarksville school district has already rushed into a $50,000 program to train, arm and provide ammunition to nearly two dozen teachers and staff.

While he was not available to Arkansas News Bureau for comment Thursday, Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins stated last month that the district’s program is a response to the Newtown, Conn., shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

While we understand the desire to prevent a similar tragedy, the great bulk of evidence suggests such training presents far more problems than it solves. In a rapidly unfolding violent scenario, gun waving cowboy teachers are apt to look a lot like terrorists in the eyes of responding law enforcement.

Moreover, even the best trained teachers will have only a shadow of the training and experience possessed by the average police officer. Each realm has a unique professional competency. Most teachers should no more attempt to be armed first responders than police officers should attempt to be physics teachers. We should allow each expert to tend their own garden.

Beyond those concerns, situations such as Sandy Hook, while horrific, are also mercifully rare. They aren’t rare because of armed teachers. They are rare because —- even in a country with a broken mental health care system like ours —- spree violence by deranged individuals is itself extremely uncommon.

In the wake of McDaniel’s decision, the Arkansas State Police, the administrator of licenses approved by the State Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies has decided to put all applications by “non-conventional” entities on hold.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said Thursday that although the opinion specifically addresses a question about school districts, the agency had chosen a broader application: For instance, there are hospitals that have their own security guard service. Is that a security guard company? That’s something that’s going to have to be sorted out by the board.”

Not surprisingly, State Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, whose district includes Clarksville, said Thursday he was surprised by the opinion and did not think it necessarily meant the district had to abandon its program. Then again, Stubblefield has been the leading architect of several dubious policy initiatives. The prospect of armed teachers would accord very well with his sad, backward-looking, evidence-flouting agenda.

McDaniel’s opinion is on target. The only guns we need in school are starter pistols. Wild, emotional over-corrections don’t change that fact.