Just 1 in 5 public school teachers said carrying firearms would make schools safer, while more than half (54%) said it would make schools less safe, according to a nationally representative survey conducted in fall 2022 and released Wednesday by RAND Corp.
If teachers were allowed to carry firearms in schools, about 550,000 of the country's 3 million K-12 teachers would choose to do so, according to estimates by RAND, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.
Men teachers, teachers in rural areas and, to a lesser extent, teachers serving large proportions of White students, were more likely than others to express interest in carrying firearms in school. Overall, men teaching in rural areas were most likely to say they would carry a firearm at school if they could, and women teaching in suburban schools were least likely.
Last year marked the most violent for school shootings, with over 300 incidents recorded in 2022, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. If recent trends continue, it's likely that shootings in 2023 will outpace last year's record, at about 400 total.
The RAND survey was administered during a window last year when about 17 shootings occurred at K-12 schools in 14 states.
It also came just months after the Uvalde massacre, which killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas.
After such national tragedies, it is common for lawmakers to propose arming teachers as a school safety response, and Uvalde was no exception. In the weeks following the shooting, proposals to make it easier to arm teachers surfaced in various states.
"Although state and local policy has focused primarily on arming a designated person, such as a sworn law enforcement officer, in schools, there is increasing discussion about allowing teachers to be armed," said RAND researchers.
As of 2021, 28 states permitted schools to arm certain teachers or staff in addition to trained school safety officers, according to the RAND report.
Despite the uptick in shootings and public outcries, only 5% of teachers selected "active shooter" as their largest safety concern at their school, the research found. Bullying, rather than active shooters, came in a strong first (49%), followed by fights (12%) and drugs (11%).
“Even with the unfortunate regularity of gun violence in U.S. schools, which often drives the policy debate around school safety, only 5% of teachers overall selected gun violence as their largest safety concern,” said Heather Schwartz, a report author and senior policy researcher at RAND.
RAND researchers surveyed 973 K-12 public school teachers for a school safety module resulting in these findings.