Proposals to increase armed personnel on school grounds commonly surface after mass school shootings, and the past few years have been no exception. Such measures were introduced in multiple states following the May 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and then again after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, in March.
However, as many 2023 state legislative sessions come to a close, the outcome has been a mixed bag.
In Tennessee, at least two bills allowing more people to carry firearms on school grounds failed to pass in late August during a special legislative session sparked by the Covenant School shooting. Measures that failed included one that would have allowed district employees to carry handguns on school grounds in absence of armed security.
“Republican politicians have spent their time this special session trying to arm teachers in schools," said Leeaan Hewlett, a spokesperson for the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action, which is part of the Everytown for Gun Safety network. Hewlett added in a statement that Tennessee lawmakers' attempts to arm teachers "fell short."
However, measures in other states advanced.
Indiana passed a law in May creating a specialized firearms safety, education and training curriculum for teachers and other school employees. The state already allows teachers authorized by a school board to carry a firearm in or on school property.
In Arizona, lawmakers passed SB 1331 in April, allowing parents and legal guardians who have a concealed carry permit to bring guns onto school grounds and inside buildings. In that case, though, Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, vetoed the measure saying it was not "prudent."
"Allowing more guns on campus will not make a campus safer," said Hobbs in her April 17 letter to leaders of the state legislature. "Firearms on campus have the potential to confuse law enforcement as they arrive at an active shooter situation."
Mississippi was slightly more successful in its efforts to allow more armed individuals on school grounds, as it passed a School Safety Guardian program on April 11 that would provide a stipend between $100 to $500 to school employees who are trained and allowed to carry concealed firearms.
Many other states have put in place similar programs in previous years. In fact, at least 29 states already allow teachers to carry firearms on school grounds under certain circumstances, according to Giffords Law Center, a gun violence prevention advocacy and research organization. Many of those include states that have a version of a guardian or school sentinel program in place.
States' efforts to arm teachers come on the heels of a historic high in school shootings recorded in 2022. The number of school shootings in 2023 is expected to top that record high. According to the K-12 School Shooting database — which has tracked shootings since 1970 and ran a predictive model based on over five decades of data — 2023 is projected to see 338 school shooting incidents, outpacing the 305 recorded last year and furthering the increase in shootings in recent years.