Armed Guards in Schools? Indiana Considers a Security Mandate

A measure right now in front of the Indiana Legislature would mandate an armed guard in every public or charter school in the state, USA Today reports. The question remains: Would students who have gone through the experience of having a classmate bearing guns break into the a normal school day feel more comfortable knowing that there’s now someone with gun on their side if something like that were to happen again?

The usefulness of having armed guards in schools for situations like the one that took place in Martinsville two years ago or in Connecticut less than a year ago is at the heart of the debate over the measure in Indiana General Assembly. If it passes, at least one armed “safety officer” will be on the grounds of every public or charter school in the state at all times. If the school is not in a position to hire a professional trained guard, they can meet the requirement by arming a teacher or principal or other school worker.

The measure doesn’t specify if additional training for the person so deputized will be required or what their duties would be if an armed attack happens on campus.

How to prevent school shootings has been part of the national conversation for more than a decade, gaining intensity after the December killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

Some say the answer is tougher gun restrictions; others favor a stronger armed presence on campuses. It is an intellectual and emotional debate taking place not only in academia, among lawmakers and policy advocates but also in living rooms and at dinner tables across the state. Even among gun-rights advocates, some question the wisdom of Indiana’s proposal — including Ashley’s father, Mark, who is a National Rifle Association supporter.

“Teachers are not prepared for that kind of responsibility or adversity,” said Woolf, 56. “That would be a recipe for disaster.”

Although he supports the idea of putting armed and trained police officers on school grounds, Paul Helmke believes that giving that responsibility to those who haven’t been training in law enforcement – teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers – is a bad idea on a number of levels. In his former position as mayor of Fort Wayne, and through his work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, he has first-hand experience with the emotional responses that come up whenever another shooting – especially in a school – makes the news.

And he fully understands how decisions made under those kinds of circumstances have a higher-than-usual chance of backfiring.

“It puts our students and our faculty at more risk,” Helmke said.

The Indiana proposal mirrors an NRA plan unveiled last week. However, the NRA plan recommends 40 to 60 hours of training for teachers and school staffers who want to carry firearms. The organization said it would prefer police officers in schools but realized not every district could afford the cost.

But law enforcement officials say more than 60 hours of training would be needed to prepare someone for such a responsibility.