Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Would arming teachers make schools safer from intruders?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Sep 25, 2014 9:51 AM
teacher in front elementary classroom 600 x 340.jpg

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, September 25, 2014:

The December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a galvanizing moment in America.

Maybe it was because 20 young children were shot and killed or that Americans had finally had enough of violence in public places like schools, but after Sandy Hook, more action was taken across the country to make schools safer from intruders. 

Several states attempted, with limited success, to make obtaining a gun more difficult.

Many Pennsylvania schools updated their security plans or made changes but the legislature didn't.

What would be one of the boldest measures is being considered at the capitol during this legislative session.  It's a bill that would allow school districts to decide if their teachers and other personnel could carry  guns.

Appearing on Thursday's Smart Talk are two veteran teachers who stand on opposing sides of the issue.  Mark Zilinskas is a math teacher in Indiana County and Kristen Bruck is a former middle school social studies teachers who now teaches at a community college.  She is a volunteer for the group Moms Demand Action.

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  • John H. img 2014-09-25 07:18

    So let me get this correct, the politicians that love to demonize teachers in order to promote their political career now want to arm them.

    That makes sense, give "incompetent" teachers at "failing" schools fire arms...aren't these politicians afraid that these "incompetent" teachers will shoot the students by mistake.

  • John H. img 2014-09-25 08:13

    I do want to add, do an online search of 'Utah teach shoots self'...just happened earlier this month.

    Luckily no one died...

  • Rich img 2014-09-25 08:17

    I expect to hear the Game Commission representative say hunters entirely paid for PaGC lands. But many of these lands are first purchased by groups like Nature Conservancy then donated to (or sold at like $1.00 an acre) the PaGC.

  • Roger & Mary Kay img 2014-09-25 08:29

    I agree that teachers have responsibility for the students in the classroom first of all, and for teaching the children and keeping an atmosphere for all students to learn. Already teachers are asked to fix many problems caused by society. The best way to keep children in schools safe is to limit the sales of guns and ammunition. If someone in school would be able to stop a person with a gun, it would be better to have someone available at the entrance, possibly anadministrator or a custodian.

  • John D. Laskowski img 2014-09-25 08:42

    The world is becoming much more plagued with "radical terrorists". The world is changing. EVERY teacher in Isreal carries a gun. The number of school related incidents since that was instituted - ZERO. When will people understand that this problem is worldwide and we need to look to the future for the prospect of any gun related incident. Many teachers are past military or gun users who could be trained to defend the children and school staff.

  • John H. img 2014-09-25 08:43

    Shots fired, 6 armed teachers come out of their class rooms, who is the shooter.

  • ZeroGravity img 2014-09-25 08:44

    Here's a solution I hope both sides would consider seriously: Every school could be staffed with an armed resource officer and a small tax levied on gun and ammunition purchases state-wide would pay for it. If the NRA feels so strongly that only a good guy with a guy can prevent a bad guy with a gun, how about they be willing to pay for it?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 08:59

    Sharon Emails


    Historically, I have been anti-gun, and I still am, basically. But, at the same time, I was substitute teaching at a school in northern New Jersey where someone walked through security, which led the assistant principal ordering me in my classroom and locking the door. A glass door.

    I had 30 high school students, as a substitute, who were laughing. I had to actually tell them to “shut the hell up unless they want to be a target” for them to listen to me. It’s the only thing that made them stop laughing. Meanwhile, I had no idea if there was an armed intruder in the school or not.

    Maybe all teachers and substitute teachers should take active shooter classes along with gun training, and a special lockbox in the classroom. I don’t know the answer, but all I can say is that I felt like a sitting duck and had no way of defending myself or the students.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:00

    Corey From Lancaster Emails

    I will compare arming teachers to the effect we have seen in Iraq.

    We went in with fire power, which gave rise to an armed resistance. The scale of the armed resistance continues to grow.

    Give teachers guns and you are giving isolated, depressed, and angry young teens a target at which to focus their rage. We will see the number of shootings increase. An arms race is not the way to solve this problem.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:01

    Blaine From York Comments

    The gun advocate did not bring up the 2 trained teachers that managed to shot themselves. Thankful they did not accidentally shot a child

    • ChristineL img 2014-09-25 09:51

      You're right Blaine. In the first two weeks of September, there were two accidental shootings by teachers that were carrying in school.

      http://m.localnews8.com/news/gun-fired-on-isu-campus/27845854

      http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58402182-78/horsley-teacher-district-elementary.html.csp

      In both cases the educators were legally allowed to be carrying the firearms on school grounds thanks to dangerous state laws.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:02

    Tara emails

    I'm disgusted that arming teachers is crossing anyone's mind. The answer to gun violence is NOT more guns. Anyone who thinks this is clearly missing the point!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:03

    Jason Emails

    I'm listening and I'm hearing that there is a debate 4 guns Carried by teachers and school I would like to hear an explanation of the financial aspect who's finding it how does it affect everybody in the community and what about the liability insurance? property taxes drive a lot of funding for schools. Who/how is it funded. teachers are role models the lesson is teachers carry guns to protect themselves from students students grow up knowing and thinking they also need to protect themselves and get a gun.
    This is a crazy idea.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:03

    Nord Emails

    I question the need for this legislation. PA law already allows for armed School Resource Officers, who do not need to be police officers. Blue Mountain school district has trained members of its custodial staff who are now armed and fulfilling this role. This legislation allows CONCEALED CARRY by guns by TEACHERS on school premises. It does not require the level of training that Mark underwent- essentially any basic firearms safety training would qualify a person to conceal carry. This means handguns being holstered on a person’s belt - recipe for accidents or having the gun taken by a student.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:04

    Dominic Emails

    In any discussion of guns and gun regulation in Pennsylvania, it seems we never recognize the Rural vs Urban differences in our state.

    Today’s discussion is no different. What is appropriate in a very rural setting is not appropriate in an urban one. A voluntary program but very regulated may be acceptable in certain circumstances but not appropriate in others…

    The local jurisdiction should have the final say

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:05

    Robert Emails

    Moms demand action want locked doors to prevent access into the school, but Adam Lanza shot his way through a glass window next to the Locked Front Doors of the school to gain access.

    Ask Moms for specific ways to stop armed intruders from entering the school.

    • ChristineL img 2014-09-25 09:46

      Hi Robert,

      Preventing a shooter from entering a school must start far earlier than the moment they arrive.

      Let's first start with background checks. In PA, there are no required background checks for the private sales of long guns. Closing this loophole is a critical step in preventing firearms from getting into the hands of dangerous people in the first place. Data show that background checks are effective. In 2012 alone, more than 9,000 prohibited purchases in Pennsylvania were blocked because of background checks. Crimes with long guns are on the rise, so it is important that we close this loophole.

      Secondly, most school shootings are because of a conflict that has been allowed to escalate and easy access to guns. Requiring that guns at home are secured would prevent easy access by children and teens. Also, conflict resolution training would be very helpful.

      Lastly, as Kristen mentioned in the show, this would have to be a multilayered approach. The PA School Board Association testified last week that things such as access control, physical barriers, environmental design, and regular drills are just some of this important factors in planning for these crises.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-25 09:06

    Cathy Emails


    How can we talk about arming teachers before we talk about improving mental health services? The State has stopped funding the Student Assistance Program which is designed to identify students with mental health or substance abuse issues and intervene. To me, that should be the focus of schools.