The number of teachers carrying guns in and around schools in the American state of Arkansas is growing.
One of those teachers is Dale Cresswell. He works in the Heber Springs School District, just north of Little Rock, the state’s capital. Cresswell keeps his gun with him at all times: in his classroom, at sporting events and whenever he is at school.
He told VOA, “I see it as…I’m protecting more than one person. I’m protecting all the other students.”
Cresswell and other teachers and school officials all had criminal history investigations and psychological tests before being permitted to carry a gun at school. Each received about 60 hours of gun training. All teachers must also go through extra training three times a year.
Cresswell said his students tell him they do not even notice his gun anymore.
There does not appear to be a law that prevents teachers from carrying guns in Arkansas. But before 2012, it was rare to see teachers in Arkansas schools with them. Then, in December 2012, a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the state of Connecticut.
Protecting schools from future shootings has become increasingly important for school officials and lawmakers. After the school shooting early this year in Parkland, Florida, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson asked a committee to study how to prevent future school shootings.
The committee’s report was released earlier this month. It said that individual schools need to make decisions for themselves. But it suggested that “no [school] should ever be without an armed presence when staff and children are attending class or a major extracurricular activity.”
A study published by Vice News in March found that at least 14 of the 50 American states arm teachers with guns. Another 16 permit local school officials to decide on the issue.
But not everyone agrees that arming teachers helps reduce or prevent gun violence.
Cathy Koehler is president of the Arkansas Education Association. She said, “I think that most thoughtful individuals know that if a person sets out to do harm to themselves or someone else, they’re not [going to] stop and think ‘Oh, there might be someone armed.'”
Koehler did not say that teachers should not be armed, however. She noted that it can take as long as 20 minutes for police to respond to a situation in some rural areas.
Koehler added, “Our preference is always going to be that the investment is made in the mental health services that are so desperately needed and are underfunded.”
But most school officials agree that even with all the added security measures, a motivated shooter will find a way to do harm.