Free Market Hates 'Teachers With Guns'

photo of teacher with gun
I SAID sit DOWN, Johnny!

After the atrocity at Sandy Hook, and with school shootings on the rise, conservatives (no doubt feeling a bit on the defensive) trotted out a two-pronged argument. Part one was the notion that most shootings happen in “gun free zones” like schools and churches and malls, etc. This part of the argument is ludicrous all on its own, but requires a separate post to do it justice. The second part of conservatives’ post-Sandy Hook argument, which goes hand-in-glove with the first part, is that in the case of schools specifically, the answer was to have more armed people there protecting the students (Wayne LaPierre’s whole laughably High Noon-esque “good guy with a gun” fallacy).

When it was pointed out, quite reasonably, that Columbine and Virginia Tech and various other schools already had either an armed guard or an actual campus police force at the time of their mass-shootings, conservatives shifted their argument to try to claim that the reason those are often ineffective is because they’re not right there when the shooting starts. In other words, by the time the Lone Ranger Good Guy With A Gun™ got there to vanquish the evildoer(s), the damage had already been done. What was conservatives’ geeeenius plan to counter this lack of immediately-available, overwhelming deterrent force? ARM TEACHERS.

No, really. That this bit of utter lunacy was dreamed up in the bowels of the NRA, which exists to benefit gun manufacturers, not defend citizens or promote safe shooting, should surprise no one. The obvious thing to do in the face of rising gun violence in public places would be to beef up police and enact sensible gun restrictions. You know, the things sensible people have been advocating, largely in vain (due to NRA opposition), for decades. But, since restricting gun sales in any way might decrease gun manufacturer profits even a small amount, the NRA is prima facie opposed to even the most commonsense measures, like universal background checks. And thus, the NRA were forced to come up with both a different explanation for why this type of gun violence happens and a different proposal to address it…one that wouldn’t affect gun manufacturers’ bottom lines.

So “arming teachers,” it was. Only, a funny thing happened just this week while everyone was trying to enjoy the fourth: in Kansas, one of the redder states where the GOP-dominated state government made for swift and easy passage of this crackpot notion, the insurance companies that cover the districts, whose job it is to assess risk and price it accordingly, refused to renew the policies of the district, citing the new “arming teachers” law as the reason:

The EMC Insurance Cos. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It’s not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said.

“We’ve been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” said Mick Lovell, EMC’s vice president for business development. “Our guidelines have not recently changed.”

The article does also state that no schools have actually instituted the programs the new law allows…but they could at any time, and inevitably, some of them will. The article also quotes an insurance executive saying the reason for the non-renewal is that “insurers simply don’t know how to price the added risk yet…but they know it’s there.”

You bet they do. This is what these people make their living at, so their judgment that the risk is much higher is both credible and must be taken seriously, given that it is they who take on the financial risk — or, as in this case, choose not to take it on. To be fair, the quote from the insurance company exec allows for the likelihood that at some point, their risk assessors will figure out how to price this heightened risk, and new policies will be available. But, based on this article, those new policies unquestionably will be more expensive. In fact, given the insurance companies’ somewhat extreme step of refusing to renew the policies at all for the moment, they may be considerably more expensive when they finally appear.

All of which leaves Kansas state schools in quite a mess, but it also leaves conservatives being forced to recognize that Teh Free Market™ they worship has disagreed with them strongly with regard to how good an idea this “arm the teachers” nonsense is. It also will almost certainly present conservatives with a choice: will they, uh, “stick to their guns” and be forced to increase taxes or issue bonds to pay the increased cost of insuring an unwise and dangerous policy? Or will they accept the judgment of Teh Free Market™ and rethink or rescind the policy?

Hah! Trick question! Of course conservatives will do what they always do: push ahead with the law (because conservatives really only hate government when it’s doing things they disagree with), require the higher-priced policies be bought, cut the funding from actual education dollars to make up the shortfall, and then continue complaining that the liberal public education experiment is a disastrous, failed experiment in social engineering, and redouble their calls for privatization through vouchers and charter schools.

Sigh…

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