Here we are again. More children and teachers have been slaughtered in an American school. The death toll was horrific enough this time to get the gun control debate raging once more. At first blush, that sounds cynical, but remember that the shooting last week in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives, came less than a month after a 15-year-old student in Marshall County, Kentucky shot 16 people in the lobby of his high school, but only two of them died. That story was barely a blip in the news.
Ever since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, a truly incredible idea has been popping up. Some people in this country think that one way to protect children during a school shooting is for teachers to be armed. Teachers. With guns. The idea is the outgrowth of one of the dumbest pro-gun statements ever, when Wayne LaPerre, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association said, during a press conference one week after the Sandy Hook shooting, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”
What a profoundly irresponsible thing to say. This is a man who leads an advocacy group for gun owners, ostensibly, and for gun manufacturers, in actuality, advocating for a cowboy outlook on firearms. His idea is formulated more from Hollywood westerns and action flicks than on the actual reality of guns and gun safety. One would think that a person in LaPierre’s position would have a deep familiarity with firearms, therefore he should know that such a statement is total nonsense. That makes LaPierre either disingenuous, or grossly incompetent.
The only retort ever needed to the ‘good guy’ concept is the shooting that occurred outside the Empire State Building in New York City in 2012, when police, trained in the use of firearms, shot and killed a murder suspect, while also shooting nine innocent bystanders. It’s only luck that these law enforcement professionals didn’t kill anyone other than the suspect. When bullets are let loose, they tend to go in all sorts of different directions, putting everyone around, guilty and innocent, at risk, no matter who is doing the firing.
But, it didn’t take long for gun rights supporters to latch on to the good guy concept and propose arming teachers as one way to deal with school shootings. It takes barely any meaningful thought to dismiss the idea of armed teachers as dangerous and misguided, before even thinking about how they would actually perform during a mass shooting.
To start, it would be irresponsible to arm any teacher without them receiving firearms training. No one, not even the people for this ridiculous idea, is for having armed and untrained teachers, but that’s the only feather in the cap for this idea. So, how many teachers will receive the training? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were over 130,000 schools in this country in the school year 2013-14. That makes for millions of teachers, administrators, and other employees. Will they all receive firearms training?
And what kind of training would it be? Certainly a couple of gun safety classes will be insufficient. These teachers will need to be trained to engage a hostile enemy in a firefight. Will they all be issued weapons by the government or will they receive vouchers? What kind of guns? Handguns? Rifles? How will they be stored at the school? In secure lockers? Desks? Will the teacher be carrying them on hip holsters, as a visible deterrent? How much will all of this cost?
Those are just the simple questions about logistics that no one has yet addressed. But then there’s the effect on school life. The teacher/student relationship will change dramatically by having armed instructors. Teachers are already authority figures, and some of them let that power go to their heads. It will be only a matter of time before a teacher shoots a student. Such an event could possibly descend into a fury of protest and debate similar to police shootings of unarmed suspects. The teacher could end up starting a vigorous defense of their actions, claiming that the student had been acting in a threatening manner, and that they feared for their students’ lives. The same old story we’ve grown familiar and enraged with over the past years would no longer be just about a cop and a suspect, but a teacher and a student. If we give teachers guns, this will happen.
A teacher’s job is to teach. Under the guise of protecting students, arming teachers would degrade that core purpose. Eventually, before anyone realized it had happened, teachers would be policing their students, seeing threats everywhere. School will come to resemble prison more and more. The institutionalized nature of schools is already oppressive enough, and it will only get worse under such a regime.
During a normal presidency, this idea would be floated but never taken seriously. But now we have a president who tweets this:
History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!
We really are doomed.