Arkansas governor seeks federal terrorism dollars to arm school teachers

Gov. Asa Hutchison of Arkansas, who spoke approvingly of arming teachers in a meeting with President Donald Trump last week, has called for federal counterterrorism funds to be spent hardening local schools.

Hutchison said that his state has a solid record of finding instances where it was appropriate to arm school staff. However, he also said he does not want a top-down federal policy setting the parameters.

“We have licensed certain school districts and those who want to be trained more significantly so that they can handle an active shooter situation. We have over 13 schools in Arkansas that can’t afford a school resource officer. They prefer to have those either in the classroom, or an assistant coach, or someone that would have a response capability,” said Hutchinson. “I think what the governors want to say is that there can’t be a national security plan but the state’s want to develop this.”

Hutchinson has served on a National Rifle Association task force following the Sandy Hook Shooting in Connecticut. He’s also served as an undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The governor said he’d learned before that one of the biggest obstacles in training armed teachers, if a district desires it, is finding the funds to do so.

“I hope your Department of Homeland Security is looking at some of the grants that come from DHS in terms of security for fighting terrorists, that some of that money can be utilized by local jurisdictions as well for the protection of the number one priority of protecting our students and our schools,” said Hutchinson. [source]

Analysis: Trump answered off-topic, referencing his administration’s work on interdicting members of the deadly MS-13 gang, but to the larger point of Hutchison’s request, it seems like a stretch to use federal counterterrorism dollars to arm local school teachers. If anything, these funds should come from the Department of Education.

But here’s the larger problem with Hutchinson’s request: What happens if/when an armed teacher actually has to confront a school shooter and discharge his or her weapon in defense of the kids — and, God forbid, he/she hits a student? What if that student dies? 

Arming school teachers just does not sound like a feasible solution to an admittingly growing problem; I see lots of legal landmines out there. But schools can’t just ignore the problem, either. Perhaps federal funding could be directed to the hiring of more school resource officers, though federal funding almost always comes with strings attached — and Hutchison doesn’t want any.

The idea of arming teachers, to me, sounds like arming passengers on commercial flights instead of hiring more Air Marshals. That said, the time for doing nothing is over. We have a problem and until we find a way to root this sickness out of our culture and society, hardening schools should be a priority. 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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