Guest Blog (Kevin Burr): Arming teachers is no solution

KevinBurrKevin Burr is Superintendent of Sapulpa Public Schools. This post was originally submitted to the Sapulpa Daily Herald in response to  a proposal by Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa) to allow CLEET-certified teachers to carry firearms on school campuses.

The nation cried as we watched our humanity at its most vulnerable last month. We are teachers, and we cried as we lost twenty innocent, angelic, creative, children and six dedicated, caring, loving fellow servants forever. They do not have to be lost, however, from our thoughts and actions as a human race. As we grieved that horrible day, nowhere in my mind was the thought that  arming our teachers would be an appropriate way of responding to such tragedy.

We are teachers, both of my parents, my wife and I. I am father to two wonderful adult children, both of whom chose teaching as a profession. I am grandfather to three of the most beautiful, bright and happy children ever to walk the earth. My daughter and I cried together on that Friday afternoon when we spoke by phone. My son could only ask why, as he thought of his middle school classroom and his own son who will be a student one day. My son, the hunter, and my daughter (the wife of a farmer), never once mentioned that they thought it would be a good idea for the teachers to have been armed “so they could defend the children.”

I know Representative Mark McCullough. I know he cares deeply for his children and for the children of Sapulpa and of Oklahoma. I consider him a good man and I think the feeling is mutual. We could not, however, be more at opposite ends of philosophy when it comes to the legislation he has proposed. We are teachers. We are not law enforcement, nor are we soldiers, even though many in our ranks serve our nation when called. We should not become gun toting, first-line defenders of institutions of learning. Ours should never be an environment where children look to their teacher as a soldier, ever ready to stage a shoot-out with some obscure, but feared, intruder.

I grew up in Dodge City, Kansas. My formative years from three to 23 were spent in what Wyatt Earp made famous as the “Wickedest little town in the West.” We hunted pheasant every fall weekend on the farms of Southwest Kansas. The local history of the most famous cow town in the world is part of my soul. Dodge City citizens enjoy the charm that accompanies their city’s history– 140 years can turn lawless, ruthless, and heathen behavior into charm, I suppose—and they even reenact gunfights for the tourists each summer night. They certainly do not advocate for a return to or replication of such an era. No great compelling reason – even the slaughter of twenty children and six teachers – justifies returning our society to the antiquated human behavior of the 1870’s.

We are teachers. We are beacons of learning whom children watch, echo, revere, extol and emulate. We are role models who should demonstrate what we want our society to be. We should never model a society that is taught to shoot first and ask questions later. Arming teachers and principals is not a solution, it’s a waste of precious time debating something that has no merit. More guns will never equate to less violence. Rather than expecting our teachers to lead our students with a piece of chalk in one hand and a loaded gun in the other, we would better direct our energies into quelling the divisiveness and disrespect that is so pervasive in our society.

This is an ideal time to act on effective, long-term solutions that do have merit. Placing a police officer in every school building should receive real consideration by our legislators. It’s an idea that would be supported by students, parents, taxpayers, teachers, principals and superintendents – I’ve asked them. While an officer in every building might cost the taxpayers, it certainly would cost less than sacrificing our principles. Let’s ask Oklahomans what they think of this realistic idea. Let’s not needlessly debate putting a gun in a teacher’s hands. Let’s ask Oklahomans if law enforcement presence in schools is a priority. I think I know the answer already.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.


The opinions stated in guest articles are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

One thought on “Guest Blog (Kevin Burr): Arming teachers is no solution

  1. One of the Memes going around the Internet is that Ronald Reagan was shot when guarded by the most highly trained armed security guards in the world. If he isn’t safe, how can a teacher even attempt to safeguard their charges with weapons?

    I would be more concerned with injuries from the accidental discharge of a teacher’s weapon in the schoolroom.

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