Sonali Rajan, Assistant Professor of Health Education

Assistant Professor of Health Education

Arming teachers will not solve gun violence in schools. Research unequivocally illustrates that increased gun access and gun possession are associated with heightened violence, thereby suggesting that increasing the presence of guns in schools is likely to have harmful effects on our nation’s students.

Existing research provides evidence about the risks of adding to the number of guns in schools on multiple fronts.

First, any exposure to gun violence -- hearing gunshots, witnessing gunfire, and/or suffering direct injury from a firearm – can adversely affect a child’s health and development. Arming teachers is likely to increase the risk of these types of exposure.

Second, the anticipation of violence can lead to increased anxiety, fear, and depression. Given the sensationalized and speculative nature of many mass school shootings that has more recently fed the perception that schools are unsafe, arming teachers likely would heighten levels of anxiety and negatively affect a school's climate for teaching and learning.

Third, according to recent research, more than half of our nation’s parents oppose school personnel carrying firearms. And teachers themselves have made it clear that they do not want to be armed. Indeed, research indicates that these more criminalizing approaches provide temporary response to what are often deep-seated reasons for how and why guns and forms of gun violence enter school grounds.

Research has clearly furnished evidence for researchers, policymakers, and teachers to oppose the call for arming teachers as a way to deter school-based gun violence.

Research also points us to a multifaceted, preventive, and more effective approach, which would include:

  • Implementing legislation and public education efforts that would reduce youth access to guns;
  • Increasing support services within schools and community settings so that the early antecedents of violent behavior among students can be quickly detected and immediately and comprehensively addressed; and
  • Promoting a positive and nurturing school climate that attends to every child's wellbeing.  

Schools should be safe spaces for learning and growth. Arming teachers, thereby increasing gun possession (and, given past research, likely increasing exposure to gun violence), achieves exactly the opposite. Keeping guns out of schools must a national educational priority.

Sonali Rajan’s research is focused on identifying patterns of risk behaviors among adolescent youth; implementing and evaluating school-based health education programs; understanding the antecedents of gun violence among youth in urban settings, and supporting efforts aimed at reducing violence in K-12 schools. 

Related: Gun Violence in the United States: Stemming the Tide of a Growing Social Crisis


  1. Benjet, C., Bromet, E., Karam, E.G., Kessler, R.C., McLaughlin, K.A., Ruscio, A.M., et al. (2016). The epidemiology of traumatic event exposure worldwide: Results from the World Mental Health Survey Consortium. Psychological Medicine, 46(2), 327 – 343.
  2. Borum R, Cornell DG, Modzeleski W, & Jimerson SR. (2010). What can be done about school shootings?: A review of the evidence. Educational Researcher, 39(1) 27 – 37.
  3. Branas CC, Flescher A, Formica MK, et al. (2017). Academic public health and the firearm crisis: An agenda for action. American Journal of Public Health, 107(3): 365-367.
  4. Branas CC, Richmond TS, Culhane DP, Ten Have TR, Wiebe DJ. (2009). Investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault. American Journal of Public Health, 99(11): 2034-2040.
  5. Kellermann AL, Rivara FP, Rushforth NB, et al. (1993). Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home. New England Journal of Medicine. 329:1084-1091.
  6. Payton E, Khubchandani J, Thompson, A, Price JH. (2017). Parents’ expectations of high schools in firearm violence prevention. Journal of Community Health, 42(6), 1118-1126.
  7. Rajan S, Vasudevan LV, Ruggles KV, Brown B, Verdeli H. (2017). Commentary: Firearms in K-12 schools: what is the responsibility of the education community? Teachers College Record, published online.
  8. Teske SC. (2011). A study of zero tolerance policies in schools: A multi-integrated systems approach to improve outcomes for adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 24(2), 88-97.
  9. Webster DW, Cerda M, Wintemute GJ, Cook PJ. (2016). Epidemiologic evidence to guide the understanding and prevention of gun violence. Epidemiologic Reviews. 38(1): 1-4.

The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.