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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5796/more-guns-safer-schools/

More Guns, Safer Schools

October 24, 2006 by

Should teachers and administrators legally be allowed to carry guns to school? This must be seriously discussed in the United States. It seems like the tragedy that struck Columbine High School in 1999 has become more common since then. The real issue that must be addressed is why schools are not allowed to protect themselves from psychotic or evil people. FULL ARTICLE


Francesca October 24, 2006 at 9:13 am


I dread the day that a teacher is fired because he chose NOT to arm himself and a gun bearing attacker killed members of his class. Of course the administration would say to the parents that they recomended that Teachers bear arms and so the teacher was found guilty of NOT PROTECTING the children in his class. Teachers are not security personel. Teachers should not have that responsibility. The more guns teachers carry, the more potential accidents with those same weapons.

Please do not overlook accident statistics when you quote reduction in attacks statistics.

Dr. Mark Thornton October 24, 2006 at 9:27 am

This problem has been long standing and the government has clearly been negligent at best and made the condition far riskier at worst. See my article on Littleton CO in May of 1999.


Fernando October 24, 2006 at 9:36 am

For me the main question is why these things keep happening in the USA and don’t seem to happen near so often in the rest of the occidental world.

Any economical reasoning behind that?

Greetings from Madrid, Spain.

fyodor October 24, 2006 at 9:52 am


Good point about the potential for accidents, but I don’t think anyone is talking about requiring teachers to carry guns but rather simply to allow them to. People who don’t feel comfortable carrying guns would not do well to be forced to carry them, and people should always be held accountable for their own actions, including negligence. But merely allowing teachers to carry guns would go a long way toward changing the atmosphere at schools away from one where criminals know they’re unlikely to be challenged.

N. Joseph Potts October 24, 2006 at 10:01 am

The perverse effect of safety provisions (including signs such as mentioned in the article) is not to be overlooked. Having just bought a house and having to leave it empty for a few days, I thoughtfully put up a “In Case of Emergency, Please Call” sign. Sure as shootin’ (so to speak), the house was broken into the FIRST DAY (I live in Miami).

Here in Miami, we don’t signal lane changes, either. If you do, the person behind you in your desired lane will move forward to keep you out.

Guns are a good way of restoring sociability to members of society such as the ones whose actions I refer to here.

Charles Smyth October 24, 2006 at 10:17 am

The proposition seems reasonable, but when students or adults go to a school to use guns or other weapons in order to do mortal harm, they are unlikely to be deterred by the threat of reciprocal force from an armed teacher. And there is the issue of proportional response for a teacher to worry about, since this is also an issue for the armed forces in Iraq and other theatres of conflict. A field day for malicious lawyers and ambitious politicians, I would think.

kentek October 24, 2006 at 10:42 am

I’ve often thought that communities should add “some of our residents are armed” to their Welcome to our City signs.
The same sign would help protect students. Of course, someone would actually have to be armed.
Kids talk. Everyone will know that some of the teachers are ‘packing’.

Jeremy Eaton October 24, 2006 at 10:46 am

John Lott states:

“Would you feel safe putting a sign in front of your home saying, “This home is a gun-free zone”? Law-abiding citizens might be pleased by such a sign, but to criminals it would be an invitation.”

This kind of logic is false on it’s face. You presume to know the psychology of a criminal. I would have no problem with the sign in front of my house, and I assure you it would actually make people feel safer. It might not invite criminals, because:

A. There is no way to verify the sign
B. It probably means there isn’t anything of value in the house. It MIGHT even be a deterrent. Who would have the balls to profess their nakedness? Only someone who felt secure from theft, by not having anything of value, or maybe a big dog, ability in a martial art. etc.

“The smart hawk hides it’s claws” – Japanese proverb

More guns gives more people the chance to make poor judgements, and create unreconcilable lasting problems. It is tantamount to providing more countries with nuclear triggers to protect their borders. It does not create a safer healthier atmosphere.

If we examine countries that have outright banned the ownership of guns by the citizens, we find productive , economically robust, healthy democratic societies. Societies with a much lower level of interpersonal violence, social ills, and unrest. Look at Japan, or for something more culturally similar to America New Zealand. How many hand gun deaths in the US last year? 9,000 + How many in Japan, despite having some of the greatest population density in the world? Probably under 40.

Biff October 24, 2006 at 10:54 am

Mr. Eaton…I’m glad you’re making this decision for all of us. I now feel safer.

Evans Munyemesha October 24, 2006 at 11:00 am

All the proposed solutions[legislation, armed teachers,etc]do not address the problem. On the contrary, they introduce other problems which merely compound the original problem. The original problem is the absence of choice [or the free market] in education which was brought about by government intervention. Further government intervention is no panacea at all but merely a band-aid on a rotting wound!

Mike October 24, 2006 at 11:05 am

G Gordon Liddy just read this piece on his radio show. Although he may be a statist at least he’s putting out some decent ideas.

Carlos October 24, 2006 at 11:15 am

It would be informative to look up the number of per-capita handgun crimes among Japanese-Americans. My guess is that it would be at or below the rate for Japanese.

But blaming cultural pathologies on inanimate object is just so satisfying!

Francisco Torres October 24, 2006 at 11:20 am

This kind of logic is false on it’s face. You presume to know the psychology of a criminal. I would have no problem with the sign in front of my house, and I assure you it would actually make people feel safer.

You missed the point – it is not an assertion, but a metaphor. Legislating against the possession of guns is like putting a sign that reads “Gun-free zone” except that criminals KNOW it is a gun free zone – precisely because government meant it that way.

More guns gives more people the chance to make poor judgements, and create unreconcilable lasting problems.

Ahhh, the Argument from Stupidity – “People are just too stupid to [place your favourite prohibition here]!”

If we examine countries that have outright banned the ownership of guns by the citizens, we find productive , economically robust, healthy democratic societies.

We would also find those that do not match up, like Mexico, that has VERY stringent anti-gun laws, yet it is NOT a healthy economy, plus is rife with criminal activity. You are confusing correlation with causation.

How many hand gun deaths in the US last year? 9,000 + How many in Japan, despite having some of the greatest population density in the world? Probably under 40.

Excuse me . . . “gun deaths”? Why not overall homicides? Japan already had a low murder rate than the US, first; second, the murder rate with other weapons not being firearms is significantly HIGHER in gun-restricted countries than in the US, meaning that gun controls does not curve crime per se, only the choice of weapons.

See: http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvinco.html

Alan R October 24, 2006 at 11:25 am

The key part of this arguement is this paragraph: People respond to incentives. Economic analysis can be applied to criminal behavior. People choose to do more of something when the cost is low and choose to do less of something when the cost goes up. Why does this logic suddenly fall apart when we are talking about degenerate, cowardly adults or students who want to commit murder? They too might think twice if they knew they could be stopped.

Rational people respond to incentives. Murders are rational only in the narrow sense of planing to carry out the murder. For most of us, jail provides enough of an incentive to not become murders, but obviously that is not enough for those people who actually murder. So I have serious doubts about the basic premise of this article.

Jason Kelley October 24, 2006 at 11:51 am

While I agree that complete private ownership of weapons is a natural right, I question whether we should allow public school personel to bring weapons in the school.
The first grievance committed is our children being forcibly taken from our homes and indoctrinated. It seems to me that giving their teachers weapons turns them into prison guards of sorts, adding to the coercion that has already occurred.
What needs to be discussed is why private schools are not allowed to have weapons on campus. A private school could make it a general rule for every teacher in the class to have a weapon. This would be completly just, because it would be a natural extension of the parent protecting his child. This extension does not occur in public schools, instead it is a extension of state control into the family, not an extension of the family.

Daniel J. D'Amico October 24, 2006 at 11:52 am

This was cross posted at

Type one and Type two errors of school violence response

Type one and type two errors often refer to the economic problems associated with government regulating organizations like the FDA. Type one errors are when the FDA allows a drug on the market that ends up being harmful. Type two errors are when they restrict a drug that is actually beneficial. The insight behind the destinction is that type one errors are self-correcting. We get a grasp of how extensive the costs of type one errors are simply because they get exposed, but we are completely ignorant as to how prominent and persistent type two errors might be.

On CNN.com today there is a story about a school in Texas teaching kids to fight back against school shootings. I think this points out the existence of type two errors in school administrations’ responses to school shootings. One of the interview subjects was quoted as saying: “If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who’s to blame,” she said. “How much common sense will a student have in a time of panic?”

This quote demonstrates the destinction between type one and type two errors perfectly. Harmful school programs that do get tried eventually fail and are elliminated, but we don’t get a good glimpse at the programs that are being suppressed in the innovation process. Suppressed programs seems to be the case given that only one school in the entire nation is experimenting with training programs. The possibility of committing a type one error is debilitating discovery thus becoming a type two error.

The question that remains is whether this is a problem which stems from government involvement in the school system or if this would be a problem endemic of any school? I’m inclined to believe that private schools, out from under the thumb of government standardizations and regulations would be more willing to experiment with training programs designed to fight back against school shootings. This is not because I think that such programs are likely to be successful at stopping an attack (though I don’t see why they wouldn’t), but because it seems like an obviously successful deterrent device. If would be school shooters are students themselves, then the training programs signal the high costs of succeeding in carrying out their plans of terrorism. Thus I would claim that schools with fight back training programs would systematically experience fewer school shootings.

noumenous October 24, 2006 at 11:54 am

I was raised by a teacher, went to public schools in the U.S., had a generally positive and fulfilling experience.

BUT… I am uneasy about putting a gun in the hands of my high school algebra teacher, or the biology teacher who shot electic bolts at the chalkboard… who else gets a gun in the school? Janitor? Lunch lady? Principal? Secretary? Gym teacher?

You’ve got to mandate training if you implement a program like this… but we have a lot of teachers teaching without certs…

Would it make more sense to go the air marshall route… some teachers are trained and certified and there are one or two in every school… very 21 Jumpstreet.

I am generally favorable to the idea of an armed populace deterring random crime… but this begs the question: Is school violence random? From the perps POV?

And forget about what happens when a teacher neglects to protect her students. What happens when she accidentally shoots one of their parents?

Francisco Torres October 24, 2006 at 12:22 pm

For most of us, jail provides enough of an incentive to not become murders, but obviously that is not enough for those people who actually murder. So I have serious doubts about the basic premise of this article.

The premise of the article is about armed deterrence, not jail as a deterrent.

Mark Brabson October 24, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Best solution for this problem. Take your kids out of the government school system and homeschool them. 1. They will actually get an education, not a statist indoctrination, and 2. You solve the problem of guns in schools.

Roy W. Wright October 24, 2006 at 12:33 pm

I wonder why people who willingly send their children to dayprisons are surprised when those children fall prey to the consequences of that choice. The state’s purpose is to harm people. Why the shock when it fulfills its purpose, directly or otherwise, in your children?

fyodor, not Uncle Joe October 24, 2006 at 12:46 pm

Jeremy Eaton,

You disparage John Lott’s argument completely on the basis that one cannot presume to know what motivates criminals, yet you then go on to make your own presumptions about what motivates criminals! The only difference seems to be that you seem to think that criminals will assume the opposite of what you tell them! Methinks you credit them for far too much imagination! Anyway, the larger and more serious point is that one cannot but make presumptions about a criminal’s “psychology” if one is to figure out what public policy will or won’t work to deter crime. Personally, I think a criminal’s “psychology” is not so different from the rest of ours as some here seem to think, meaning if you give them good reason to fear for their safety, they’ll go (or do) something else.

As for your statistics, you would be on steadier ground there were they not so selective. The populations of Israel and Switzerland are heavily armed yet also have much lower homocide rates than the US. That’s why studying the effects of gun control within a society is much more useful than studying between societies.

Alan R October 24, 2006 at 1:04 pm

The basic premise of the article is that “Economic analysis can be applied to criminal behavior.” Do murders often (or ever) take the “costs” (jail, retaliation by the intended victim, the death sentence) of their behavior into account? I doubt it. Since the kids at Columbine killed themselves after murdering others, where is the deterent from armed teachers?

Mark Brabson October 24, 2006 at 1:07 pm

fyodor, not Uncle Joe:

I would concur with your sentiments about not comparing between societies.

There are many dynamics, that simply cannot be controlled for, that make intersociety comparisons impossible on the gun issue.

To everybody:

Ultimately all arguments for and against are moot: The right to arm is absolute. It cannot be debarred by governments or by individuals. Any Constitution or law that purports to debarr individuals from owning, possessing and bearing arms is null and void.

Nelson October 24, 2006 at 3:51 pm

I’d be more afraid of an armed teacher “going over the edge” than a random stranger comming to school to kill kids.

Jacob Steelman October 24, 2006 at 4:57 pm

This is just another example of what happens when the state socializes an industry as it has done with the education system. So long as the state owns and operates this industry we will continue to have problems. Whether or not teachers have guns in schools will not solve the problem. The mere fact that we debating this issue – guns in an institution of learning and supposedly civilize society – shows how far the systme has deteriorated. Let’s get the state out of the business of education completely by privatizing the public school system now and stop schools from being a war zone.

Mark Pribonic October 24, 2006 at 5:08 pm

I think Mark Brabson hit the mark earlier. The true nature of the problem is found in the ever expanding intervention by government into child raising and education. Maybe it is too simplistic, but it appears the rise in violent incidences happens to coincide with the increasing growth of government K-12 education. And now the advocates of this system are clamorinng for four year-old kindergarten.

The real question is not why this is happening; instead it is why parents would ever believe that raising a child is best accomplished by the government.Considering the present state of government education, along with its apparent social ills, why would anyone continue to believe the answer lies in more government.

Alex Davidson October 24, 2006 at 5:24 pm

A study published in the British Journal of Criminology concludes that the massive gun buyback in Australia has had no effect on the murder rate in the 10 years since it was carried out. What it has done is make law-abiding citizens more docile and obedient by transfering power to criminals, the police and the government.

Ninos Malek October 24, 2006 at 5:38 pm

I must note that I have been informed kindly by Dr. Lott that the original Gun-Free School Zone Act was never enforced. The Supreme Court struck it down but after some changes made to the original legislation by the Congress, it was re-passed.

He also noted that Oregon and Utah currently allow permit holders to carry guns to schools, as well as teachers. Moroever, prior to 1995 most all the states that had right-to-carry laws allowed permit holders to carry guns on school grounds.

Peter October 24, 2006 at 9:43 pm

For most of us, jail provides enough of an incentive to not become murder[er]s

Most of us wouldn’t become murderers anyway. Jail has nothing to do with it.

People who do commit murders clearly aren’t prevented from doing so by the threat of imprisonment. People who don’t mostly don’t want to. The number of murders actually prevented by threat of imprisonment is probably about 5 per century.

Mark Anderson October 24, 2006 at 11:35 pm

The question of whether or not government school administrators should carry firearms transcends the issue of gun rights and the Second Amendment. We are talking about government agents, not private individuals.

A better question would be: Should more government agents be allowed to bear arms against the American people?

I have to say that I am completely opposed to the idea of expanding the police state, and so I am against more government employees working in capacities where they can bear arms against us Americans.

John Hall October 25, 2006 at 12:28 am

I saw the Lott reference and I knew that it would get some comments in the comments. While I agree with Lott’s general conclusions, I think it’s best to hold off citing him during his legal troubles. It’s just an easy way for people to criticize your argument in its relatively uncontroversial parts.

Som October 25, 2006 at 2:28 am

I have no doubts guns would protect more teachers and students in schools. However, we should remember a clear distinction between the teacher’s right to carry guns, vs the “school’s” right to carry guns. The only reason I have such a concern is that public schools are public property, and if guns are presented to teachers like textbooks (instead of teachers bringing their own private/ personal guns), that might put more schools in danger. A school that follows such a bureaucratic procedure can have their “armory” infiltrated by a crafty student, and take some fun “rampage” out on other’s. It’s far easier for students to do this with bureaucratically controlled armories vs private school armories (if any would exist). The point is, don’t let public schools control gun use or distribute guns, leave that to the teachers individually with strict liabity as the rule.

Perhaps we should focus our fullest fury against the ultimate support of public school… Compulsory Attendance laws.

Warren October 25, 2006 at 2:51 am

While the effectiveness of the deterrence created by teachers carrying arms might be brought into question, the effectiveness of the protection it affords is cannot. Armed and well-trained teachers will have a great chance of stopping criminals bent on murder. This might seem a little extreme but isn’t the legitimate point of carrying weapons, to defend? A classroom of completely defenseless children is easy prey for the killer. While nobody can guaranty that an armed teacher will be able to stop the killer from killing anyone it is at least one line of defense.

Paul Marks October 25, 2006 at 7:12 am

Talk about violent crime (or “gun crime” as if people being killed with blades and other such is somehow O.K. – after all violent crime did not decline in Australia when they introduced strict “gun control”) in “the United States” is silly.

The United States is a vast and diverse area of some 300 million people. Firearm ownership is very common in States like New Hampshire and Vermont and violent crime is very low (lower than in many nations where there are strict “gun control” laws). Whereas many places in the United States that have had strict “gun control” laws for decades (such as Washington D.C.) have very high levels of violent crime.

The idea that (for example) more “gun control” laws in (say) New Hampshire would reduce violent crime is absurd (most likely murder and other violent crime would increase).

Giving a monopoly of private firearm ownership to criminals (which is what “gun control”) does is NOT way of keeping firearms out of the hands of murderers – it is simply a way of preventing potential victims deterring attack or defending themselves.

However, “crazy” student killers may be I notice they do not go and attack a place they know there will be a lot of people with firearms – they attack places where they know there will be lots of unarmed people.

The old America where even young children took their hunting rifles to school did not have mass school shootings. People may not want under 18′s to take firearms to school, but an environment where nobody (apart from one or two security guards) has a firearm might as well call itself a shooting gallery. “Roll up, roll up – unarmed people for you to shoot”.

Jim Hester October 25, 2006 at 8:01 am

“If we examine countries that have outright banned the ownership of guns by the citizens, we find productive , economically robust, healthy democratic societies.”

I wonder if he means countries like Italy in the 30′s and 40′, Or Germany in the 30′s and 40′s.
Or Iraq under Hussein. Or China under Mao. Or Russia under Stalin. Or Cambodia under Pol Pot. Or N. Korea under Kim Jong Il? All of these countries had/have strict gun control. Because it works!
Australia’s crime rate is through the roof after honest citizens turned in a half million hand guns. Taking guns away from people is to turn them into defenseless serfs.

And what is missed in the above quote is this…
Guns in the hands of law abiding citizens discourages dictatorships. And the way we’re being “chipped” and monitored by Governments “for our own good”… the more guns the better.

Yancey Ward October 25, 2006 at 8:53 am

People need to learn to fight back in these kinds of circumstances. The advice to hide is OK if you can actually hide, but the advice to never confront someone who is going room to room shooting people is not OK.

Passengers on jets were once advised to never confront or fight with hijackers. Look how good that advice turned out to be.

billwald October 25, 2006 at 12:44 pm

Bottom line is that our Constitution as interpreted by case law can no longer protect the citizens. Our constitution was designed to control a religious society in which shame was a greater force than law. Americans no longer react to shame and the population no longer shuns shameful people.

Second, after 30 years in the Seattle Police Department (actually after 5 years – I’m a slow learner) I realized that the police always arrive a day late and a dollar short. It is not possible for the local police to protect anyone and the police have no legal obligation to protect any specific citizen unless the police offer protection to that person – such as a 911 operator saying the police WILL arrive is one minute.

We have approx one out of a 100 locked up in the slammer (federal, state, and local). Would we be “safe” if it was one out of 50?

In the Seattle area it costs approx $100,000/year to put one police officer on the street. Would be be “safe” if the number of officers was doubled?

The only solution I can think of is to drop the concept of “justice” and replace it with “protection.” We already spend more on personal protection than the total of all federal, state, and local policing combined.

The rich people live in high rise condos and in gated communities. It is the working class who provides both the victims and the suspects for most violent crimes. I propose that neighborhood associations be permitted to fence their neighborhoods and provide gate guards through a local tax. This would cut the cost of local policing in half. The people who wanted to live in outlaw communities would be permitted to do so.

David Spellman October 25, 2006 at 5:48 pm

Why do people choose schools as targets of mass killing? Perhaps because they know that the occupants are unarmed.

The schools are a microcosm of what would happen if all of society were unarmed. Psychopaths would know everyone is a target of opportunity.

Markus October 26, 2006 at 11:11 am

“I’d be more afraid of an armed teacher “going over the edge” than a random stranger comming to school to kill kids.”

Ah. So what’s to prevent a teacher who is “going over the edge” to arm him or herself and do harm under the current system?

It’s pretty clear that the average armed, law abiding citizen respects the law. Who would you rather live next to: an NRA member who works for a living, or a crack house full of crazies? Both are equally likely to be armed.

What’s incomprehensible to me under this argument is that anyone would feel comfortable sending their child to a school where a teacher could “go over the edge.”

Seems that some folks put a lot of stock in the idea that the current proscription against guns in schools makes their children safer.

These same folks wring their hands over what should be done about violence in schools.

My wife is a school teacher and I assure you that if she was legally armed, she, and her students would be much safer.

The fact is, she already has access to guns. If she was a nut, it’s not likely that an unenforceable rule would stop her – or anyone else – from “going over the edge.”

I think that one basic point that this article is making is that you just don’t see murderers attempting to ply their trade in places where they know that they will meet armed resistance – such as a policeman’s benevolent association fundraiser.

The criminals head directly to “gun free zones,” more properly described as “victim disarmament zones.” So the idea that a criminal won’t enter a house with a “GUN FREE ZONE” sign is, well, just plain silly.

There have been many businesses that posted such signs and saw armed robberies rise.

Check out http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/ for several stories from Ohio alone.


Dave Duringer October 26, 2006 at 11:24 am

I liked the article very much, but need to correct one point:

Federal law does not ban teacher carry if they have a permit from a state that requires training and background check:
see http://www.worldexaminer.com/2006/10/kopels_latest_p.html

Reinhardt November 6, 2006 at 10:11 pm

This might seems a little naive, but why not do in public schools nationally as was done during the bussing crisis of the 70′s in the inner cities? Metal detectors and x-ray machines could be installed at all entrances of the schools. Additionally, armed security guards could be placed on duty in the hallways. Make walking into a school just like walking into a courthouse. We could minimize the likelihood that anyone, student or teacher, would carry a weapon into a school vs. increasing the likelihood that they will.

Mark Brabson November 6, 2006 at 10:18 pm


Do we really want our children attending what amounts to day prison?

The better solution. Abolish public education entirely. In the interim, abolish compulsory attendence rules. Get rid of the kids that don’t want to be there anyway.

Homeschooling is by far the best way to go, but for those that can’t or won’t, competitive private and parochial schools will serve. Without stiffling government rules and regulations, private institutions will be able to innovate and thrive.

Jim Hester November 10, 2006 at 10:37 pm

“Metal detectors and x-ray machines could be installed”

Somehow it wouldn’t comfort me if I lived in a major city to know that my child is in a building that everyone outside knows that everyone inside is unarmed.
An armed gaurd at the door? That would be the first victim…then open season.

And I always wonder at folks who refuse to give up their guns to the government but hand over their children 5 hours a day.
I say, We keep the guns and the Government gets out of the education business!

Libertarian. :)

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