By: Robert Davis
The federal Gun Free School Zone Act and Illinois state law ban concealed carry on school property by anyone except active-duty military and law enforcement, but teachers in the state have been calling for a change in the law for years, and support has surged following 2018’s school shootings.
‘We Need Another Way’
Valinda Rowe, spokesperson for Illinois Carry, says local school boards have been contacting her organization for some time asking what they and their teachers need to do to protect students.
“Local school boards contacted us after Illinois’ concealed carry passed in 2013, and first issued in 2014,” Rowe told Gunpowder Magazine. “When [the Parkland, Florida school shooting] happened, there was a school resource officer on scene [who] did not help save lives. Prior to Parkland, we already had school boards contacting us, asking, ‘What can we do? What do we need to protect students?’ They were already asking the right questions: ‘What else can we do, rather than waiting for someone to come in to help us? We need another way.’”
‘An Outpouring of Support from Teachers’
Illinois was the last state in the union to pass concealed carry laws after two lawsuits – Moore v. Madigan and Shepherd v. Madigan – were decided in 2012.
Firearms instructor Tom Dorsch, director of On Site Target in Crystal Lake, Illinois, has witnessed first-hand teachers’ eagerness to learn about and become trained in using firearms.
“Not all teachers should be armed,” Dorsch said. “Not all of them are up to the task. All willing teachers should be allowed to carry, however. I had an overwhelming response of over 400 teachers and faculty taking my class … We had an outpouring of support from teachers. A lot of teachers take the class just for information on shooting, how guns work, and [to learn] what’s expected of concealed carry [holders]. Some have no intention of carrying at all. All teachers and school personnel should have this knowledge, though. Teachers may not be the ones responding. An administrator or custodian who has taken the class may be the one responding.
“I typically go around the room and ask them to give me their life story to determine whether or not they will be the ones learning how to shoot or if they are just learning information,” Dorsch said. “Most of them say they want to protect their kids, and right now they can’t except by barricading the door. Others want training just in case there is a gun present.”
Mark Maggos, chief instructor at Trigger Talent in Godfrey, Illinois, has also seen a recent rise in the number of teachers interested in taking his classes.
“Teachers have been coming to me for five or more years,” Maggos said. “I offered a special class that was free a couple months ago, and 40 teachers signed up two hours after I posted it on Facebook. I had 40 more on a waiting list.”
Maggos is also focused on the uphill legislative battle Illinois teachers face.
“A lot of [teachers] want [to take my class] because it’s free, but I had a stipulation that they had to be proponents of teachers carrying in school,” Maggos said. “If they’re not willing to push the agenda, then it’s not worth it to me. I lost $4,000 in income after fees from doing the free classes. A lot of teachers want the law to change and to carry in their personal lives if it doesn’t change. A lot of counties here in Illinois are starting grassroots-level, non-binding agreements with their local school boards to petition for the law to change as well.”
Change: ‘It Could Take a Long Time’
Local school boards are in the process of signing the 2018 Student Safety and Protection Resolution, which will then be sent to the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) and onto Washington, D.C. The resolution would grant school boards the freedom to allow trained and qualified teachers to carry firearms.
Rowe says schools ultimately want to be in charge of their own safety programs.
“It could take a long time,” Rowe said. “School boards are asking for local control to be returned back to school boards. They think that’s the best way to protect students. They’re not seeking a requirement for handguns in schools. They’re looking at and passing a resolution that would return local control to school boards to determine who can be a part of the school security team. Some have former law enforcement or former military [personnel] and want to be able to use them. If they can get the [IASB] on board, it could propel the issue to other legislators.”
Robert Davis is a journalist from Colorado. He covers defensive gun use and Second Amendment policy for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.