I wrote here last month about a recent Attorney General Opinion in which the AG said that school districts do not qualify under state law to obtain a license from the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies to use staff as armed guards. This opinion was in response to news that the Clarksville School District had spent $70,000 over the summer to train and arm members of its staff for the current school year. In August, the Board voted to stand by the AG Opinion and suspend the licenses previously granted to the school districts in question, but earlier this month, the Board reversed itself and voted to allow the school districts to keep the licenses for the next two years to give the Arkansas General Assembly time to examine the issue and amend the law as necessary. This extension, however, only applies to the thirteen school districts across the state who currently have the licenses, as the Board has said it will not grant any new licenses to other school districts during this time.
This vote puts Arkansas as the seventh state to allow armed staff at public schools, with the other states being (if I’m not mistaken) Ohio, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington. I’ve made it known before that I don’t think putting more guns on school grounds is the answer. Every school needs a comprehensive school safety plan in place in case of an emergency (whether school shooter or natural disaster), but the chances of an innocent person being injured or killed during a school shooting increases as the number of guns firing at any given moment increases, even if well-intentioned. Last month in Georgia, a school bookkeeper named Antionette Tuff talked a school shooter armed with an AK 47 and 500 rounds of ammunition into surrendering peacefully. I’m not foolish enough to think that this approach will work in every case, but I think we should at least give it a try before reaching for another gun.