Principals oppose efforts to allow them to carry guns in response to Newtown

A joint statement from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals on allowing principals and teachers to carry guns in school:

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we all feel a desperate need to honor the memories of the victims and take steps to prevent such horror from happening again. In that spirit, many well-meaning policymakers are proposing to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in school. As the professional organization for our nation’s principals, we strongly oppose such policies.

A principal’s first responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment. To be effective, schools must be perceived as safe havens where students want to be. The presence of armed school officials on campus conveys the opposite message to students and to the local community.

Is the school really safe, a parent might wonder, if the principal feels that he or she needs to carry a firearm? Any impression that obstructs a trusting relationship in school compromises school safety instead of enhancing it.

That compromise would perhaps be necessary if arming teachers and principals actually made schools more secure. We believe, however, that such policies will not produce the intended effect — and they might do more harm than good. NASSP School Safety Specialist Bill Bond, who experienced a school shooting as a principal in 1997 and who has assisted in the aftermath of just about every school shooting since, reminds us that most of these incidents happen very quickly and last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Bond’s close examination of each shooting incident reveals a complex series of decisions that a school official would have to make to eliminate the threat while still safeguarding the school. It is not reasonable to expect that a school official could intervene in a deadly force incident, even with a modicum of training, quickly and safely enough to save lives.

Yet even the slightest hope of saving lives bumps up against another well-researched reality: gun-related violent behavior is closely connected to local access to guns. If we increase the number of guns in schools—no matter how carefully we safeguard them—we can expect an increase in gun violence.

Sadly, there is no simple solution to this complex problem, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a student or an outsider. But we know that there is something schools and communities can do. It has been identified time and again by the Secret Service, the FBI, and numerous researchers as the most effective way to prevent acts of violence in schools: build trusting relationships with students and others in the community so that communication flows freely among public agencies and threats come to light quickly. We need policymakers to support and promote collaboration among community-based mental health organizations, local law enforcement agencies, schools, and other key community stakeholders to create a system of community-based mental health response and threat assessment. These efforts should promote wellness in schools, including how to address the mental health needs of students and all community members, while responding to potential threats to community safety. Schools also need to have the means for appropriate personnel and programs to establish positive connections with the community.

The solution is a matter of school culture. It’s a matter of community engagement and coordination. It’s a matter of public health. It’s a matter of funding for school resource officers. And yes, it’s a matter of gun access. The real solution is multifaceted and complex, but as with most complex problems, the simple and obvious solutions often fall far short.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

27 comments Add your comment

The Deal

December 19th, 2012
7:56 pm

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Ben B

December 19th, 2012
8:19 pm

Good decision. It would be ludicrous for any school official to carry a firearm in school. That’s all we need is a shoot out in any school or college. Nobody can be as dumb as Texas.


December 19th, 2012
8:30 pm

Unfortunately, a thoughtful and well-reasoned response such as this will be completely ignored by our state legislators because “they know best”. I do not want my children to go to a school where administrators and teachers are armed, nor do I feel I need a gun to keep myself safe in my school.

living in an outdated ed system

December 19th, 2012
8:39 pm

For me, it’s plain and simple. If every public school allowed teachers and principals to carry guns, I would home school my children.

Inman Parker

December 19th, 2012
9:10 pm

Maureen, is it true that teachers are armed in Israel, or is that a hoax?

Maureen Downey

December 19th, 2012
9:17 pm

@Inman, Teachers are not armed, although schools have armed security guards.


December 19th, 2012
9:55 pm

As an administrator now, I would retire before I carry a firearm. I don’t even own a gun now and don’t intend to.

Old timer

December 19th, 2012
10:24 pm

My experiences when visiting Isreal …teachersvwerevpartvof of the military and carried guns….I was in several schools


December 19th, 2012
10:29 pm

“gun-related violent behavior is closely connected to local access to guns” is not a correct statement, in fact I would call it an all out political falsehood: if that statement had merit then Chicago, DC, and others that have “banned” guns should be the safest places to be

Karl Marx

December 19th, 2012
10:32 pm

Sad comments. I was surprised at the number of school systems that do allow Teachers and Administrators to carry guns as reported tonight on the news. The students did not seem to have any problem with it and some liked the idea. That reminds me about something that went around the internet a while back. It was a front yard sigh that read, “My next door neighbor wants to ban all guns, Their house is not armed. I respect their opinion and promise not to use my guns to help protect them.”

The Deal

December 19th, 2012
10:55 pm

Yes, Karl, because we definitely need to let the students make serious decisions about how the schools are run. Welcome to a 1-day school week, 4-month summer, math and writing not required, french fries for every 2-hour lunch, and no grades. Try again.

How about a sign in your neighbor’s yard that says, “Attention, criminals. Free weapons in my next-door neighbor’s house. They’re out of town until next Sunday. I promise to look the other way.”

Dr. Monica Henson

December 19th, 2012
10:56 pm

“It’s a matter of funding for school resource officers.” This is, in my opinion, a real necessity in brick-and-mortar schools and the best way to deter school shooters and neutralize them quickly if they do strike: trained, armed, law enforcement personnel onsite. Every school needs this protection in this day and age.


December 19th, 2012
11:25 pm

These groups do not speak for everyone. You could get any number of teachers and principals who would have no problem with being armed.

In my office building, there are about 700 employees. We have 2-3 security personnel in the lobby with one more manning the parking deck and another making rounds. After hours, there are at least two. While they don’t openly carry weapons, I know they have them close by. In addition, access is strictly limited by card readers, on the elevators and on each floor. Finally there are about 100 surveillance cameras throughout the building.

All that and we are not a “controversial” company. I don’t think Adam Lanza would have gotten past the lobby.

In schools with 700 students and teachers, many have no security personnel, limited cameras, and visitors just need to “stop by the office and sign in”.

There has to be a common ground.

Pride and Joy

December 20th, 2012
12:19 am

Thank Goodness for these principals!
Very well said!
If and when schools are armed…I’m moving overseas to some place civilized. I will not raise my children in a gangsta culture.

Karl Marx

December 20th, 2012
6:13 am

Mr. Deal, The decision to allow guns in those school districts was made but the individual school boards not the students (Try signing up for a reading comprehension course would you) and go ahead with your sign. That’s why I have a carry permit. No guns will be left at home they will be with me.


December 20th, 2012
6:45 am

The Deal

December 20th, 2012
7:56 am

Karl, you’re the one who included the note about students as part of your justification that this was a good idea: “The students did not seem to have any problem with it and some liked the idea.” Reading comprehension? How about common sense? Did anyone see the story about the idiot who shot someone over a pizza at Domino’s? Not so isolated. This type of garbage happens every day. Cling to your guns, but you’re not bringing them into my child’s school. Start your own crazy person gun charter school.

drew (former teacher)

December 20th, 2012
7:56 am

I don’t own a firearm, and I have no intention of getting one. That said, I have no problem with administrators having access to firearms in schools.

Don’t stand there and tell me how tragic the incident in Newtown was, then dismiss one of the most viable deterrents because it’s politically sensitive. Either allow administrators to defend their students, or hire armed security guards.

bootney farnsworth

December 20th, 2012
8:41 am

what grandstanding. and loaded with the usual say nothing / do nothing slogans

if you don’t want to own/carry a gun, don’t have one.

Freedom Education

December 20th, 2012
9:30 am

“Former NYPD Detective John Baeza says… we need to take action to see that schools are made safer. And to do it he says we need to repeal legislation making schools gun-free zones so that teachers can properly defend themselves.”

Pride and Joy

December 20th, 2012
9:30 am

bootney, your 8:41 post is so stupid “if you don’t want to own/carry a gun, don’t have one.”
The issue is even when i don’t have one, you and idiots like you can and DO KILL me and my children and other people who don’t own guns.
Just today a 16 year old shot and killed his friend. Neiterh of them were old enough to own or buy a gun yet here they are, killing each other, courtesy of idiots like you who own their guns and leave them lying around for kids to find and kill each other.
Now my tax dollars are going to go to waste locking up the filthy kid who shot his friend. All that money could have been used to hire more teachers and reduce classroom size; instead because of gun-loving morons like you, my kids were in overcrowded classrooms with an overcrowded everything.
Don’t beech and moan about lack of money for teacher pay, Bootney, when you and sickos like you drain all of our tax dollars cleaning up after you filthy gun lovers.

Pride and Joy

December 20th, 2012
9:49 am

karl Marx, how much heat are you packing? I mean really, you expect some gunman with an assault rifle to give you a polite warning that he or she is going to begin the assault?
The gunman with the element of surprise will always win. I am an expert marksman thanks to my service in the military. I am qualified to own and use a gun but I don’t for a reason. They are too dangerous. Your gun is more likely to kill and hurt you and your family than it is to be used to stop a perp.
So if anyone wanted to kill you they could because you don’t have eyes in teh back of your head and you still have to draw your weapon.
Do you walk your child to school with a gun loaded and ready adn pointing to — where? Which direction? I can quickly shoot y0ou in the back of the head before you even know what’s happening.
Owning a gun is NOT a protection against other gunman. NEVER.
Murderers don’t send you an invitation to a gun fight likie a cotillion. They hide and they surprise you and that is something you cannot guard against no matter how you try.
The ONLY solution is to ban all guns. Only our own law officers and military (active duty) should own them.


December 20th, 2012
2:36 pm

some things to keep in mind as this discussion continues:

1 many high schools nowadays have armed resource officers.
2 banning guns won’t necessarily be effective. you can look at our european brothers to see how an outright ban has worked. you could also look at the list of banned substances to see how effective schools are at enforcing rules.
3 you cannot ensure “never”. unless you are using metal detectors and searching everyone, you cannot ensure that a particular anything won’t ever make it onto school grounds.


December 20th, 2012
4:18 pm

So, you arm those within the schools. Did the DC sniper go inside buildings to create mayhem all those weeks?


December 20th, 2012
9:05 pm

being former military then you know you are to defend the constutition and part of it is the second amendment. The amendment was not for hunters; or sportsmen or clay shooters; it was written for the government to be fearful of its people; not the other way around.

what are governements capable of: Ask a person of Jewish decent; the native american population; or an African-american what government is capable of ; and least we forget Asians.

You have stepped off into the void with your statements or you are simply a troll

the founding fathers seems to have more intellgence and willpower than the drival im hearing now

Cliff Higgins

December 21st, 2012
8:17 am

Not sure what the answer is, but how will making guns harder for law-abiding citizens make it better? Last time I checked, meth, theft, DUI, and murder were illegal. I’m glad we don’t don’t have any of those problems in our country.


December 27th, 2012
8:44 am

Has anyone noticed that school shootings generally happen at schools that fall between the extremes relating to policy and practice? For example, they don’t happen in big cities like New York where they have metal detectors, armed guards, a homeland security type presence along with an anti-gun mentality. These cities have chosen to turn their schools into fortresses and it works with an added cost that only they can afford. They also seem to believe in counseling and mental health policies.

They don’t happen in states like Texas where it’s 60/40 in favor of teachers being armed despite what policies, laws and rules say. Plus Texas still has and uses corporal punishment to correct behavior problems which is the opposite of New York.

School shootings seem to occur quite regularly in districts(Colorado & California) that fall between these two examples(zero tolerance for weapons). They will continue to occur as long as educators do not avail themselves of the brutal and requisite means to stop an attacker in his tracks. If they don’t want to carry guns and use them so be it but they’d better have their own shooters available to counter when needed because guns aren’t going anywhere despite the wishful thinking of Dianne Feinstein and the other prominent anti-gunners.