Gun Free Zones and S.B. 514

In the early 1990s Congress passed the Gun Free School Zones Act, designating all K-12 schools in America as “gun-free” zones. Since then, we’ve seen major mass school shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and Santa Fe.  

The lesson is clear: disarming law-abiding parents, teachers, and staff in K-12 schools doesn’t make our children safer, it makes them defenseless.

Luckily, Federal law makes an exception: states can decide to allow license holders to carry in schools. But Texas law bans carry in schools unless the school district gives explicit permission. While some schools take part in various programs allowing small numbers of teachers or staff to carry, most districts refuse to grant permission. 

It’s well past time for Texas to scrap its general prohibition on K-12 carry. Senator Bob Hall’s SB 514 would do exactly that. 

As both a school district employee and the father of an elementary schooler, I understand this idea may make some people uncomfortable. After all, Campus Carry, Licensed Open Carry, and even Texas’ original Concealed Carry laws were all met with vocal concern before they were passed by the legislature.

But just as each of these laws resulted in none of the disasters predicted by their opposition, Licensed Concealed Carry in K-12 Schools would be just as problem-free. 

As with the previously-mentioned laws, Texas would not be the first state to try School Carry. In addition to the many states (including Texas) that allow limited carry programs, four states allow anyone with a license to carry concealed in schools. These states have done so without issue for decades.

School Carry makes perfect sense considering that the people carrying are at the intersection of the most caring and responsible groups among us: educators, loving parents, and the willfully lawfully armed. These are the same people we trust with the safety and well-being of our children every school day, or who dutifully carry each day when out with their kids. They are the ones who take the safety of themselves and their families seriously enough to make the decision not to leave it to someone else.

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What doesn’t make sense is to trust these same people to carry at parks and playgrounds, family restaurants, crowded movie theaters, and the shoulder-to-shoulder Texas State Fair, but suddenly cast a wary eye of distrust at the entryways of school buildings.

We are our own first responders. This truth is especially significant within the walls of K-12 schools, where most buildings don’t have armed guards or police — even in districts that employ their own police department. “Gun-free” schools are a measure of how long we’re willing to make our children and the adults watching over them wait while some deranged psychopath — which all the mental health professionals and law enforcement agencies failed to interdict — is actively in the process of murdering them. 

The entire Sandy Hook shooting was over in nine minutes. Police were at the school three minutes and twenty-one seconds after the first 911 call. To put that in perspective, that’s two hundred and one seconds, twenty children, and six educators.

No police force on the planet can travel to a school, navigate the halls, locate, and engage a deadly threat faster than a responsibly armed citizen can draw from a holster and shoot a killer standing right in front of them. 

And when you never know if your local police will rush in immediately or stand outside and wait for it to be over, like they did at Columbine and Parkland, relying on government forces to save you or the children in your care is a gamble you don’t want to lose. 

Even school marshals can’t stop shootings if there are no marshals in that school. Many Texas school boards don’t allow marshals in their districts, regardless of the courageous souls who would give anything to take up that noble responsibility. In schools that do have marshals, if they don’t happen to be in the same place an attack begins, they still have to take the time to find the threat and stop them. 

But tactical law enforcement training isn’t necessary to defend-in-place when the danger finds you. American gun owners, trained or not, successfully defend themselves every day in their homes and out in public. And American gun owners are well qualified to defend themselves and protect our vulnerable children in a school.

For those who say teachers would freeze under pressure, I’ll highlight three heroes who acted bravely to save lives at Parkland — knowing full well the danger they faced. 

Chris Hixon, unarmed, charged the shooter from down the hall. Aaron Feis, unarmed, physically fought the shooter in a stairwell. Scott Beigel, unarmed, ushered students into his classroom, while remaining in the hallway to lock the door which could only be locked from the outside. 

None of them hesitated, and they died heroes, whose names and deeds we should never forget. Had they — or any of the adults in building 12 — been armed, the headlines would read very differently today. And unlike other options being discussed, eliminating “gun-free” zones costs schools nothing.

That’s why I’m going to do my part to support passage of Senator Hall’s bill, SB 514, to restore our right to an armed defense in K-12 schools. I wholly urge all good Texans to call their legislators and tell them to do the same.

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