Monday, February 24, 2020
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DeVos wants local control for guns in schools

For the record, Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos told the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Tuesday that she believes deciding what place guns have in our schools is “best left to” local or non-federal control.

The following exchange occurred a little over one hour into her hearing:

Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut: … One final question: Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos: I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question is —

Murphy: You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?

DeVos: Well, I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school that he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.

Murphy: If President Trump moves forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones, will you support that proposal?

DeVos: I will support what the president-elect does. But Senator, if the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that I — my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.

Murphy: I look forward to working with you, but I also look forward to you coming to Connecticut to talk about the role of guns in schools.

It has also been widely reported, here on CNN, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will close after a final show in May of this year.

I only bring up this admittedly remote connection between circuses and guns because clowns are part of the circus, and clowns have also been acting in a threatening way around schools in Connecticut, where students have then threatened, in response to the clowns, to bring guns to school and shoot the clowns.

“Clown videos appearing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram suggest that people find it funny to scare unsuspecting individuals,” writes Griffin Olshan, editor-in-chief for The Round Table, the student newspaper at Stamford High School in Connecticut. He says more than a thousand comments had been made on at least one video posting, but one comment in particular disturbed him and other students:

“Everyone at Stamford [is going to] be showing up to school … with knives and Guns ready to fight,” the comment reportedly stated before it was deleted.

Perhaps, if Ms DeVos visits Stamford High School or other schools in Connecticut to talk about guns, as Mr Murphy suggested, she would face a situation ruled by the emotions of families that have actually lost children—6-year-olds—to gun violence inside school buildings.

“The use of weapons in school is never, under any circumstances, acceptable,” Mr Olshan opines. “Students cannot take it upon themselves to try and ward off a clown from SHS. This is exactly why there are security guards.

“All gun control opinions aside, this situation is different,” he concludes. “We’re not talking about gun owners exercising their constitutional right to carry a gun. We’re talking about paranoid high schoolers carrying around weapons because they feel the need to protect themselves from people dressed as clowns.”


Students and teachers should not feel the need to protect themselves from grizzlies any more than clowns. Both fears are irrational in a national policy debate. The presence of guns in buildings around young children leads to dangerous situations that could result in death.

When Ms DeVos said guns play a role in our schools by protecting students and staff from bears, she revealed her fundamental misunderstanding not only of security and protection but of police work and of providing a safe environment that is conducive to learning.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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