In a column published last Thursday in the Kalamazoo Gazette, Grandville area representative Dave Agema defended his controversial plan to allow teachers in Michigan to be armed in the classroom. Agema’s plan was promptly criticized both in West Michigan and around the state while at the same time receiving media exposure across the country.
Agema notes this exposure in his column, stating that the “bill has received local, state and national attention.” He attributes this attention to the “seemingly steady flow of tragic news headlines about students under attack by other students, as well as possible threats from outside terrorist organizations.” Agema fails to acknowledge the fact that his proposal received attention largely because of its outlandish nature, rather than serious concern over terrorist attacks on schools or shootings. Nevertheless, throughout his column Agema promotes fear and the idea that schools are “easy, potential targets” for terrorists and criminals.
To justify his claims, Agema argues that response times to a “tragic occurrence” in schools are too slow and that in the time it takes police to arrive at a school a person who is trained to use a firearm could “immediately protect victims.” He argues that allowing some teachers to be armed would act as a deterrent to school shootings, the majority of school shootings have happened in states without concealed weapons laws:
“According to a 1999 study at the University of Chicago, between 1977 and 1995, 15 shootings took place in schools in states without right-to-carry concealed-handgun laws and only one took place in a state which had such a law. There were 19 deaths and 97 injuries in states without right-to-carry laws, but only one death and two injuries in states with such laws.”
He goes on to argue that the five school shootings that happened during the 1997-1998 school year took place after the 1995 Gun-Free Schools Zone legislation that banned guns within 1,000 feet of a school. Agema never points out that school shootings are atypical and have been declining over the past several years. Moreover, there have been no reports of terrorists targeting schools.
Agema further claims that “several teachers” support his bill, although he does not name any.