Locked and Loading: What Happens If Iowa Arms its Teachers?

Iowa politicians proposed a bill to arm teachers to keep school children safe from shootings. But do they really feel safer?

5 mins read

This story is syndicated from The Spartan Shield, the newspaper of Pleasant Valley High School in Riverdale, IA. The original version of the story ran here.

Every parent wants to protect their kids from danger. In school, it’s at the root of every book challenge and curriculum complaint.

But soon, something far more dangerous than a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be entering Iowa’s classrooms: guns.

House Study Bill 2586, introduced on Feb. 19, 2024, would allow teachers to carry guns on school property and provide additional funds for school security.

Senior Pratima Khatri is an organizing director for the Iowa chapter of March for Our Lives. For her, this bill is nothing short of catastrophic.

“I do not feel safe in school as is,” Khatri shared. “But I would feel even less safe if my teachers were armed and there were always guns on school property.”

Art credit: Dominique Greene

The bill comes only a few months after a Perry High School shooting left two dead and six injured. In the wake of the tragedy, Governor Kim Reynolds expressed her condolences while asserting her distaste for gun control. “No additional gun laws would have prevented what happened. There’s just evil out there,” Reynolds said.

Yet according to the British Medicine Journal’s 2019 research, states with more permissive gun laws have significantly higher rates of mass shootings.

By arming teachers, legislators hope to prevent mass-casualty events while protecting Second Amendment rights.

“This bill sets a very high standard,” said the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Phil Thompson. “Because we’re talking about the safety of our children, the bar must be high. We recognize that this responsibility must be taken very seriously.”

Lawmakers aren’t alone in this perspective. A recent Des Moines Register poll reported that 65% of parents with children under 18 support arming teachers and staff.

As a representative of March for Our Lives Iowa, Khatri is vehemently opposed to such bills. “We should support laws that better regulate the acquisition of guns. March for Our Lives Iowa has a legislative agenda filled with bills that would be incredibly beneficial to prevent gun legislation in schools,” she said.

Freshman Mela Tapia said she feels unsafe in school after the Perry shooting, and the idea of her teachers being armed only increases this fear. “If we want to solve the problem, we need to start at the source, so they should be focusing on making gun laws, not introducing them into the environment,” Tapia said.

Should the bill be passed, adopting concealed carry policies will be left up to Iowa’s school districts.

PV administrators are largely opposed to adopting a concealed carry policy in the district, as is School Board President Nikhil Wagle.

“Allowing teachers and other school employees to carry firearms takes resources away from addressing the core issues of inadequate mental health support, conflict resolution programs and other preventive measures. Schools should be safe zones for students that encourage an ideal learning environment, not one resembling a war zone,” Wagle said.

Superintendent Brian Strusz also believes school safety should remain in the hands of professionals. “Our school resource officers are very highly trained. That is their job…. If there’s an issue in our school, they’re going right to it. I’d be fearful for someone else doing that,” he said.

The potential liability for the district is another concern. Legally, HSB 2586 provides immunity to those who carry firearms. But this doesn’t mean there can’t be other consequences.

“[Arming teachers] increases [liability] to such an extent that the few districts that had planned on equipping employees with firearms were told that their liability insurance would be dropped if they allowed that,” Wagle explained.

In Khatri’s eyes, the hypotheticals are the most terrifying part of the bill.

“What if a teacher wasn’t properly trained and a firearm went off on accident? Or a student stole a teacher’s firearm?” she questioned.

These questions and countless others will remain unanswered for the foreseeable future— or at least until the Senate decides if such a law is more likely to become a shield against future threats or open Pandora’s box of unintended consequences.

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