Editorial: PA schools should not arm school police officers with semi-automatic rifles

Leah Wilhelm, Reporter

In only 40 days of 2023, Pennsylvania has been subject to over 54 school shootings, and nearly 8 students have been injured or killed nationwide. 

With an increase in gun violence, many have tried to find a solution to decrease the impact of school shootings. For example, two schools in the state of Pennsylvania have authorized officers to carry and store semi-automatic rifles within school buildings; the goal being to lessen the death and injury rate caused by these shootings and to ensure officers can stop the intruder before damage is done. But, this “solution” is far from safe. 

Pennsylvania public schools should not allow school police officers to store semi-automatic rifles on school property.

Steve Stuckey, an uncle of two Altoona students shares his thoughts on the storage. “With all the school shootings, the only way to stop them is by arming the people who can stop them.” Although this was the intention of the storage, in most cases, these rifles don’t hit the mark. 

6 in 10 rounds fired miss their target, and even more alarming, they occasionally strike other officers or innocent bystanders. This shocking data comes from the research of two Criminal Justice professors at Loyola University Chicago. When put under extreme stress and pressure, officers are even more likely to miss their target. This could lead to the endangerment of the students attending these schools. 

During the case of a school shooting, most students will have the choice to either stay in their classrooms or attempt to escape the building. With students using the hallways to leave the school, and officers attempting to fire at the intruder, the chances of them missing the intruder are extremely high. What if they hit a student? 

An Indiana high school student was shot and wounded when a sheriff deputy’s gun accidentally discharged in a classroom as students were taking part in law enforcement vocational training, according to USA Today. And that’s without the pressure of an armed shooter in the building. 

Hershey High School student Sophia Tunks believes the storage of these rifles would be extremely detrimental. “In my personal opinion, having guns in a school with children is extremely dangerous and unethical,” said Tunks. “More often than not, more people get hurt when guns are readily available for people to use.”

This is true. The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, CHOP, gun related injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages 1-19 in 2022. “In states with increased gun availability, there were higher rates of child deaths due to firearms,” according to CHOP.

By allowing these weapons to be stored in the school, the accessibility of these weapons would be increased and statistically could lead to the endangerment of students. This would be counteractive to the initial purpose of these firearms: to protect students. 

To ensure these weapons never enter our schools, contact Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education, Dr. Khalid N. Mumin.