Does concealed carry belong in churches and schools? A trainer, a schoolteacher and security experts help provide answers to one of America’s hottest debates in the June issue of Townhall Magazine. Mark Kakkuri reports.
“Suzanne,” a K-12 teacher in Detroit, Mich., entered the classroom. Students filed in and took their seats. In minutes the lecture would start, followed by a written exam and then a practical exam. Today, however, was a Saturday, and Suzanne was not the teacher, but the student. And this wasn’t her classroom, but that of Rick Ector, a certified instructor for those wishing to obtain a concealed pistol license in Michigan.
As Ector introduced himself and the topic of concealed carry, the discussion naturally turned to recent school shootings. Suzanne raised her hand, and Ector motioned for her to speak. She told the class she was a teacher and shared her concerns over security at her job.
“The school where I teach has almost identical safety measures that were in place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School,” she said. “Paltry measures, such as simply locking the front door, are inadequate because if a bad guy just bursts the door free or if an authorized visitor, such as parent, opens the door— the bad guy still has access.”
While Michigan does not allow concealed carry on school grounds— GOP Gov. Rick Snyder recently vetoed legislation that would have made this permissible—Suzanne said that if she were authorized, she would be willing to carry a handgun on the job.
She’s likely not alone.
In 2012, the FBI reported 19,592,303 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “checks,” a procedure that occurs every time a firearms dealer sells a firearm to make sure the buyer is not a felon and therefore ineligible to purchase a firearm. As of March 2013, the FBI reported 7,014,240 NICS checks, which puts 2013 on pace to surpass 2012’s total by more than 10 million. By comparison, the FBI in 2005 reported 8,952,945 checks. Although the NICS system cannot account for every firearm sale, it is often a key measure of such sales in the U.S.
Not only have firearms sales been increasing year after year, but also the number of those carrying concealed handguns has grown as well. Forty-nine of 50 states allow for some form of concealed carry—only Illinois does not— and a 2012 Government Accountability Office report says that as of Dec. 31, 2011, there were about 8 million active permits in the U.S. Prior to the GAO study, previous estimates put the number at around 7 million.
With gun ownership seemingly at historic levels as well as an unprecedented interest in concealed carry, “pro-gun” and “gun control” rhetoric has risen as well. Moreover, as the country acclimates to the nuances of increases in concealed carry—specifically, where guns may be legally carried concealed and where they may not—incidents of violence have drawn some of the debate to the concealed carry status for two key places: churches and schools.
Carrying concealed weapons in churches or schools demands careful consideration of multiple factors.
Brian Gallagher, founder of securityatchurch.com, an online portal devoted to providing church security tips and resources, says the most important issue related to individuals carrying guns at schools or places of worship is training.
“Just because a person is legally authorized to carry a weapon does not mean they have the proper training and judgment to use it during a emergency or crisis,” he says.