The insurance market has spoken: Donít arm teachers in Kansas

Updated: 2013-07-15T21:23:57Z

A popular libertarian view says that government should keep its meddling, regulating fingers out of most things. The invisible hand of the market should decide what works best.

When it comes to allowing Kansas teachers to carry concealed firearms in classrooms, the free hand of the market not only has decided, it also reached out and slapped Kansas upside the head for a terrible idea.

Kansas lawmakers passed guns-in-schools legislation in April. It came in the aftermath of shootings around the country, most notably at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.

In a cringe-inducing coincidence, Gov. Sam Brownback signed the measure on April 16, the anniversary of a 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that left more than 30 students and faculty dead.

The law took effect on July 1. School boards, state university presidents, and community and technical college boards now may allow employees who have a concealed carry license to bring guns onto campus and into school buildings.

The National Rifle Association and other gun supporters claim that if faculty and staff were armed, they could take out a rampaging shooter in those precious moments before law enforcement arrives.

But itís also possible and more likely that introducing weapons into classrooms would create opportunities for tragedy. Inquisitive children could get hold of a poorly secured firearm. An armed teacher with minimal training could shoot the wrong person during a crisis or misinterpret the circumstances in the heat of the moment.

Donít just take our word for it. The prospect of guns in schools has Des Moines-based EMC Insurance Cos. threatening to drop coverage for Kansas schools. The company now insures 85 to 90 percent of the stateís school districts, but it says it will not renew policies for any that allows guns.

ďEMC has concluded that concealed handguns on school premises pose a heightened liability risk,Ē the company wrote in a letter to its Kansas agents. ďWe are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company.Ē

The company isnít playing politics. Rather, it studied the numbers and concluded that insuring schools that arm teachers is a losing bet. A few smaller insurers have reached the same conclusion.

Kansas schools do not have money to waste on this. The Kansas Supreme Court is being asked to rule on whether K-12 schools need an additional $600 million just to achieve an ďadequateĒ education standard. Even if lawmakers find that money, we doubt they will come up with extra to pay for guns in classrooms.

According to a New York Times report, Oregon schools also considered arming teachers. Then they found out that their insurer would charge a $2,500 annual premium for each armed teacher. That adds up when a school district arms multiple teachers in multiple schools.

Schools didnít need a reason other than common-sense safety to say, ďThanks, but no thanks,Ē to the Kansas Legislature, but they got it. Greater liability will command greater insurance premiums.

Cash-strapped schools have more pressing expenses than satisfying Wild West fantasies.

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