Schools and Universities May Soon Face More Personal Injury Lawsuits

Nov 14, 2019 by

Schools and Universities Should Prepare for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Injuries have always been a possibility on college campuses. People trip, slip, fall, and hurt themselves all the time. Some students have even been tased and pepper sprayed. However, there’s a new potential threat of injury on campus that has people concerned.

On August 1, 2016, Texas passed a new law allowing college students aged 21+ with conceal carry permits to carry firearms on campus. The only exceptions are areas like sports arenas and chemical labs. In 2017, the law took effect for community colleges and private schools. NBC News reported that Texas is one of eight states that allows students to carry guns on college campuses.

Proponents of the new law say an armed student body might be able to mitigate the casualties of a mass shooting on campus. This seems to make sense considering a large number of mass shootings have occurred on college campuses in recent years. However, experts are concerned that it might encourage more violence.

Others make a more shocking point: even trained police officers have difficulty hitting a perpetrator during an incident and often shoot innocent bystanders. An FBI study found police who engage an active shooter are wounded or killed at a rate of 46.7%. If trained police can’t get it right in a stressful situation, how could a college student with no combat experience?

This experiment from ABS News shows the disaster that occurs when average people try to protect themselves with a gun in an active shooter situation. Spoiler alert: the gun gets stuck in his shirt and he would have died if the situation was real.

Then what about all the incidents of mishandled armed teachers ?

Are professors really in favor of armed students and staff?

Although the media makes it seem like most people are in favor of arming students and teachers, edweek.org reported statistics that contradict that sentiment. For example, Teach Plus polled 1,233 teachers and 80% said they strongly oppose arming teachers. The National Education Association polled 1,000 members and 82% said they wouldn’t carry a gun on campus even if they were trained and allowed to carry. A Gallup poll found only 30% of teachers believe arming teachers would effectively limit the number of victims during a school shooting.

The bottom line is the data doesn’t indicate teachers support guns on campus.

Are schools ready to be held accountable for lawsuits?

Who’s going to be held responsible for lawsuits filed against the school after an injury? Getting shot is considered a personal injury caused by someone else’s negligence and shooting victims are absolutely entitled to sue for damages.

Are armed teachers required to sign a waiver to be fully responsible if they injure someone? Is the school going to take full responsibility for staff and students whose firearms accidentally discharge and cause property damage or injury? Even if conceal carry permit holders sign a waiver to be held personally responsible, it’s possible a judge might decide to hold the school partially responsible for facilitating the problem.

Accidental gun discharge is a real threat to safety

As more college campuses allow concealed carry by students and teachers, it’s only a matter of time before someone innocent gets hurt. Accidental discharge of a firearm happens more often than you think. For instance, in 2018, a teacher was ironically teaching his class about gun safety when his gun fired into the ceiling. A 17-year-old boy suffered moderate injuries when bullet fragments were lodged into his neck. The students said nobody came to check on them and the injured boy didn’t realize he had been wounded until he got home.

Schools need to specify requirements for conceal carry

The potential for accidental discharge exists when a person carries their weapon with a round in the chamber. The problem is, in an emergency situation it’s not practical.

There are five conditions to carry a gun:

  1. Empty chamber, no magazine, hammer down
  2. Empty chamber, full magazine, hammer down
  3. Chambered round, full magazine, hammer down
  4. Chambered round, full magazine, hammer cocked, safety on
  5. Round chambered, full magazine, hammer cocked, safety off

Most people who conceal carry do so with their weapon cocked and the manual safety engaged. However, the safety can fail. Some pistols have a backup safety, but there’s no guarantee everyone will be carrying a firearm with a grip safety. To make matters worse, some firearms are safer to carry cocked than others. There are pistols that can be cocked and fired by pulling the trigger. Others discharge when bumped.

Unfortunately, a popular weapon carried by campus security – the Sig Sauer P320 – has been known to fire accidentally when dropped or jostled. Multiple law enforcement officers have suffered gunshot injuries as a result of this defect. The defective guns were never recalled.

What’s the answer?

It seems like all this legislation has been passed without also coming up with how a weapon can be carried and clarity around who will be responsible for negligent injuries, damage, and deaths. It’s too early to know whether arming teachers and students is a good idea. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a disaster to sort it all out.

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