The majority of those crowded into the standing-room-only hearing on arming Kansas teachers had come to the Statehouse to plead against that folly. But it was those who’d come to argue in support of a bill that could force some teachers to take up arms who made the strongest case against pressuring educators to double as first responders.
Joseph Clay, a Wichita math teacher who served in Iraq, appeared on the verge of tears as he swore to members of the House Insurance Committee that “this Marine will be the first to stand at the ready” and “the Marine in me is rushing towards the firefight.” No one could have doubted his sincerity, but he came off as a little too eager to rush in that direction.
At one point, he apologized to lawmakers: “I feel like I’m getting a little aggressive with you guys.” And at another, he described his 3-year-old son as someone who “has a temper, like his daddy.” An opponent of the bill later cited Clay, “with all due respect,” as exactly the sort of person who has her convinced that arming teachers would make her children less safe.
Jason Watkins, a lobbyist for the Kansas State Rifle Association, acknowledged when asked whether having more guns in schools would lead to more accidents as well, that yes, it would: “In terms of do you increase the opportunity for mishaps with firearms when more firearms are around, it would not be an honest statement to say no. Of course opportunities for mishaps are going to increase, just like opportunities for auto accidents increase the more cars there are on the road.”
The author of the bill under consideration, Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter, quoted from Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and told the committee that deadly shootings in the classroom are a fact of life. “It’s not if our kids will be killed; it is when they will be killed and what we are doing to prevent it,” he said as men and women in anti-gun violence “Moms Demand Action” T-shirts shook their heads no and murmured against his acceptance of a situation they are determined to change. Didn’t he just say nothing can prevent gun deaths? And teachers are not snipers.
Republican Sen. Ty Masterson, who has already done more than his share to block even small legislative steps toward making sure those who shouldn’t have guns don’t get them, repeated the 100 percent disputed National Rifle Association talking point that 98 percent of mass shootings have happened in gun-free zones that attract mass shooters. (That’s “half-true” according to Politifact, while the anti-gun Everytown for Gun Safety found that among 133 mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent were in gun-free zones.) Masterson also said, “I think you can contend rates should be lower” to insure schools with armed teachers.
You can contend that, but it isn’t accurate. When the 2013 concealed carry law that already allows teachers to be armed first passed five years ago, the insurance carrier for most Kansas school districts said it wouldn’t cover districts where teachers were armed, because of the increased liability. This law would try to force them to cover those districts anyway and would even prevent them from raising their rates without proving that the increase was necessary. “You’re trying to prevent a company from pushing politics,” explained Masterson, who is apparently unfamiliar with the singular focus of insurers.
Already, Kansas lawmakers have passed on banning bump stocks, strengthening background checks and raising the age at which Kansans can buy a rifle. This bill isn’t expected to become law, either, and thank goodness. But its proponents did illustrate even better than their critics why sending underpaid, underappreciated and mostly undertrained non-marksmen up against shooters toting AR-15s may be the worst idea out of Topeka since the 2012 tax cuts.