Last month, we posted a new STN Web Poll that asks the question: "Should teachers, administrator and other staff be trained in using and carrying firearms on campus or on board school buses to immediately respond to an active shooter incident?" This, of course, includes school bus drivers.
We had originally thought of the question shortly after the Newtown tragedy in December, as special-interest groups were arguing (and they continue to do so) over whether or not teachers and other school employees should be trained and certified to carry weapons on school grounds to thwart any incident that might occur. The issue became even more polarizing after the shooting death of Alabama school bus driver Chuck Poland last month. At this writing, the survey responses were nearly even at nearly 50 percent saying "Yes, we need the protection" versus 48 percent who said "No, adds to the security risk." The remaining 2.5 percent said they were unsure.
A scientific survey, of course, a web poll does not make. Still it's interesting that this informal survey of readers closely resembles the national debate, depending upon which group is reporting the results, or even which media outlet. The National School Resource Officers, for example, oppose conceal and carry permits for non-police school employeess, instead favoring more SROs on campuses nationwide. Other groups, like the NRA, disagree and say it's the right of all citizens to bear arms in order to protect themselves and, in this case, the children in their care.
Nationwide, like in St. Louis, there are many stories of teachers and others banding together to receive their own training. A representative of a firearms safety group that is training the teachers said: "When concealed carry passed (in Missouri) they said there would be wild-west shoot outs, blood in the street. None of that's happened."
In other places, like Chicago, it should come as no surprise that transit officials are opposed to conceal and carry laws, not only that allow the drivers to pack heat but also their passengers. There, CTA President Forrest Claypool told Mass Transit magazine that transit agencies across the state contend that allowing individuals to carry firearms on buses and trains would be dangerous, even catastrophic, because: "Allowing people to carry concealed weapons in a confined space like a bus or a train, especially on an elevated track or a subway, would create an unsafe environment for the more than 2 million people who use mass transit in Illinois every day. It would be a recipe for disaster."
Politics aside, a school bus is quite a different environment than a transit bus or a metro train, as if a school bus driver was permitted to carry, that weapon would ostensibly be kept safe and secure and away from the student riders. One would think, hope even. School buses are preferred modes of transportatoin for students, at least the younger ones, because the children don't need to worry about interacting with the general public. They are insolated, so to speak, although as we learned last month in Alabama one never knows when or where tragedy strikes. Even for its tremendous safety record, school buses are vulnerable to human evil.
Even then, plenty of parents not to mention transportation and administrative staff could be worried beyond belief about the possible ramifications of guns on the bus. It must be pointed out however, that there are far too many wire reports we read every month involving a child who brought their parents' gun on board, and of course sometimes those incidents involve students bent on criminal activity.
But, as we reported in December, districts in Texas and elsewhere, especially in rural locations where it can take police a half hour or more to respond to the scene, have allowed certain staff to carry concealed weapons with no ramifications. The point made by Superintendent David Thweatt of Harrold ISD some 175 miles north of Dallas is that exactly what personnel are trained in firearms and who carry them on their person on school property remains a secret for tactical and security reasons.
Where do you fall on the issue?