Arming America's K-12 Teachers, The Second Amendment and the Gun-Free School Zones Act: A Public Policy Analysis
According to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” (U.S. Const. amend II), which is the absolute “right of the people.” The Bill of Rights further indicates, “Any right given to the people cannot be revoked by the government, limiting its power over the people.” However, educators and school administrators in most U.S. states must check this fundamental right at the door, as they are governed by their respective state governments and school policies, which appear to directly contradict the Bill of Rights, in accordance with the outlined language.
Furthermore, the Second Amendment was designed to allow the people the right to emerge from behind the government and defend themselves through the use of firearms in the event that the government fails to protect their safety and security. This concept has created a new phenomenon within our local, state, and federal governing bodies, who are tasked with securing their schools. In response to active shooter threats, some legislatures have suggested and enacted laws granting school teachers and administrators the right to carry firearms for self-defense, and as a deterrent to potential acts of violence against our most vulnerable population, K-12 public school children.
The purpose of this public policy dissertation is to offer insight into preventative measures established by individual states that act as a deterrent to violent acts, while also investigating how individual states prepare their schools to react to an active school shooter, for example, by being reactive rather than proactive. While examining these policies, the Constitutionality of the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990) was tested through an analysis of the United States Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over their regionally-assigned states, by examining caselaw rulings of these high courts. Emphasis was placed on United States v. Lopez (1995), which is the only case to date heard before the United States Supreme Court that involved the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990).
After the validity and constitutionality of the Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990) was established, relevant laws from all 50 U.S. states were analyzed and compared. The following questions were used to guide this legislative analysis: Are guns allowed in K-12 public schools? Are individuals that possess valid permits allowed to carry concealed firearms in K-12 public schools? Do school boards and administrators have the authority to enact policies allowing their educators the right to carry firearms for self-defense, while engaged in their regularly assigned duties? Does state law permit the arming of school teachers and administrators? Are active and retired law enforcement officers permitted to possess firearms in K-12 public schools for school security?
This analysis concludes with recommendations for school boards and administrators, legislatures, and other stakeholders outlining the most viable solutions to securing our schools against active and potential school shooters.