risk assessment in the age of teachers with guns

This morning I’ve been formulating a post about the American culture of risk assessment, the individual as capital and the television show Dollhouse.

Then I saw this story in the USA Today, and lost the impulse:

“A new Kansas law allowing gun owners to carry weapons in public buildings, including schools, has thrust a major Des Moines-based insurer into the national gun control debate. The EMC Insurance Cos. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It’s not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said…”It’s one thing to have a trained peace officer with a gun in school; it’s a completely different situation when you have a custodian or a teacher with a gun…That changes the risk of insuring a school and magnifies it considerably.”

On its face, arming teachers, principals, or staff in our schools is a stupid idea. Not because these teachers and others might  not be trained on gun use. They could be gun experts; that’s not the point.  I know how to drive a car; I could not race F1. Teachers are not trained in armed protection and security. Knowing how to use a gun does not equal knowing how to react to a man with an assault rifle. The difference between a teacher and a police officer is not a gun. It’s an entire life of education, experience, training, poise.

The point of this story, however, is not guns. It’s risk management. Insurance and liability. Run the numbers, assess the dollar values, and determine whether a teacher with a handgun is deemed acceptable risk. Is there a policy to be written  for a school whose custodians carry brooms and bullets? How much should that policy pay out when that gun eventually goes off? Or a student dies because of that gun?

I understand the need for such human calculus. And it’s coming out correctly, in my view. We need protection from ourselves, and this company just might provide it. Insurance companies could save us all through their number crunching and risk management, be it high-school football or climate change. Still, it’s a cold calculus, and a sad realization, that our salvation may come from companies assessing individual deaths as too expensive for compensation.


2 responses to “risk assessment in the age of teachers with guns

  1. “On its face, arming teachers, principals, or staff in our schools is a stupid idea.”

    I would amend your statement above to be:

    “To those uniformed and ignorant of the facts, arming teachers, principals, or staff in our schools is a stupid idea.”

    The Concealed Carry Movement started in Florida in the1980s. Before that ordinary law-abiding citizens carrying a concealed handgun legally was not particularly common in the U.S. In many localities local law enforcement could refuse a license or permit if such a permit or license even existed. L.A. was a perfect example. If you weren’t rich, a movie star, or a personal friend of the Chief of Police you had little chance of getting a permit.

    Today most states have a “shall issue” policy where the state sets some standard a citizen must meet (usually some training and no criminal record or known mental or drug abuse issues) and the license must be issued if the citizen meets qualifications.

    When Concealed Carry seriously started in Florida opponents were painting a picture similar to the one you paint. They went so far as to so say that rivers of blood would be flowing through the streets as people broke out into gunfights over road rage or whatever.

    Guess what?

    It didn’t happen and we have nearly a quarter century experience with this now and millions of Americans licensed to carry. As it turns out people with a concealed carry permit do get arrested for firearms violations. But that does not happen any more often (slightly less actually) that sworn police officers being arrested for similar violations.

    Experience says we are not likely to have a huge problem with teachers who qualify. What will happen is that reversing policy (e.g., Gun Free School Zone Act) and advertising that schools are protected by armed people (whom the attacker cannot identify beforehand – he has no idea who might be carrying) will go a long ways towards deterring these people from attacking schools.

    As to training, it is certainly possible to giver teachers, custodians, whatever some basic training. Training is often really not the primary qualification though. Being able to kill is probably the greater qualification, and you can’t know beforehand who can, and who cannot (and this is equally true of police – believe it or not many policeman or policewoman can not kill with a firearm). I won’t belabor that point but you might read “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (its on Amazon).


  2. The last thing we should do is mix roles of educators and “those who are willing to kill.” The primary qualification for our teachers should be that they capably educate our children.

    Anyway. I’m not opposed to conceal and carry, and there’s little need to defend the legal right to carry here. I do think that expecting security from teachers is a bad idea on its face. The ‘guns in schools’ folks used to want armed guards. Now that we peace-niks are okay with armed officers in schools, we need to have armed teachers? I don’t think that’s wise.

    Too many guns find ways to get their triggers pulled. Intentionally or not.

    thanks for your comments, and stopping by.

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