What Americans say about…

Arming teachers and staff

There is especially strong partisan differences, but results shift when conditions are placed on allowing teachers or school staff to carry a gun at school.

There’s especially strong partisanship in attitudes on guns in schools. Fifty-seven percent of Republican parents support allowing teachers or other school employees to carry guns vs. 39% of independents and just 17% of Democrats.

Gun ownership is another dividing line; among those with a functioning gun at home, 55% support arming teachers and staff vs. 26% of those in households without a gun. There’s a racial/ethnic aspect as well, with support ranging from 44% of white parents to 27% of nonwhites.

Differences are similar when moving out of the abstract to ask whether parents want their child in a classroom with a gun-carrying teacher. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans prefer an armed teacher; 29% of independents and 10% of Democrats agree. Fifty-two percent of parents in gun-owning households favor the idea as do 46% of rural residents, 44% of conservatives, and 40% of whites. Those compare with 20% in non-gun households, three in 10 in cities and suburbs, one-third of moderates, and 12% of liberals, and two in 10 nonwhites. Eighty-two percent of blacks and 83% of Hispanic parents would prefer that their oldest child be in a classroom with a teacher who does not carry a gun; 57% of white parents also would prefer a non-gun-carrying teacher.

As noted, results shift when conditions are placed on allowing teachers or school staff to carry a gun at school, including “80 hours of training on the use of force, weapons proficiency, legal issues and first aid; and approval by the school board and local law enforcement.” Such systems are in place in some states, including Texas and South Dakota, and, newly, Florida, in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland. Given these requirements, support among parents of school-age children for allowing school employees to carry guns jumps 12 percentage points to split evenly, 49% vs. 50%. Still, those who are strongly opposed outnumber strong supporters, 33% vs. 20%. (Without conditions, strong opponents are more dominant, 45% vs. 13%.)

Change occurs across demographic groups but most sharply among Republicans, with a 19-point gain to 76% support for armed teachers or staff — roughly matching the 70% support among gun-owning households. (About half of Republicans live in a household with a gun, compared with 39% of independents and 24% of Democrats, according to this survey.) Support also gains 13 points among independents, to 52%, and 12% among Democrats, albeit just to 29%.

Among supporters of arming teachers and staff, two-thirds also back paying bonuses to those who carry guns in school, including one-quarter who strongly support such a policy. Computed among all parents, 34% both support allowing teachers and staff to carry guns in school when training and screening are in place and paying them a bonus to do so.

Ultimately, parents are divided on whether additional armed personnel will make school safer for their child or not, albeit with more skeptical than supportive. Thirty-six percent think that letting teachers or staff carry guns will make their child less safe, 26% more safe, while 37% think it won’t make much difference in their child’s safety.

For more on the PDK poll's findings on school security:

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