In light of the tragic event at a high school in Parkland, Fla., there’s understandably been a great deal of talk around how to make our schools safer. While trump supports tougher background checks and banning bump stocks which are both good ideas, he also wants to arm teachers. To be fair, making guns more accessible is not a solution that originated from the gray matter between trump’s ears. After each recent school shooting, people wanted to arm more than just teachers: arm security guards, arm the janitor, or arm a retired military person – heck, arm all of them. trump’s solution of course is music to a gun nut’s ears but it’s also remarkably, and unsurprisingly, short-sighted.
Let’s say trump signs off on new gun legislation. Part of that legislation calls for arming 20% of a school’s teachers, as he’s said here. My high school, for example, currently staffs 58 teachers. (For argument’s sake, let’s call it 60 teachers so 20% = 12 armed teachers.) Also as part of the proposed legislation, that school is required to put signage outside the school property that says, essentially, some of the teachers in this school are “packing heat,” have been trained to handle their particular weapon, and will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of their students.
I’m not a forensic psychologist so I’m not even going to pretend I know what’s inside the head of a school shooter. But if someone said you have an 80% chance of finding gold buried underneath random yards in your neighborhood, you’d better believe there’d be a run on shovels and metal detectors at Lowe’s. If a shooter is intent on causing mass casualties like we saw at Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Parkland, I find it hard to believe that signage outside the school will be an effective deterrent. Also, will the shooter be in communication with a school official ahead of time, providing specific details about when they’re going to be at the school entrance, what they’re wearing, or what mode of transportation they’re taking to get to the school? They won’t. Then how do we know that any of the 20% of teachers will be in that particular area of the school at that particular time? We don’t.
It’s been established that kids with guns is a bad thing and they shouldn’t be allowed in our schools. However, if we’re going to arm 20% of teachers, who’s deciding which 20% to arm? Here’s what I could see happening: school arms a history teacher because he is an ex-Army Ranger. “He’s a great shot,” they’ll say, “who’s fired a gun in a real war zone. This is only a high school.” This particular ex-Army Ranger fought in Afghanistan and kept his PTSD hidden for years. His students love him and describe him as the “nicest man who loves all of his students as if they are his own kids.” Then one day, the unthinkable happens. He snaps. Administrators would say they never thought he could do something like this … blah blah blah. Did his medical records state that he sought therapy for PTSD? Who reviewed his medical records? Due to current HIPAA law, this teacher’s medical records wouldn’t be public anyway, so who’s going to work on amending that law?
Even if 20% of teachers are allowed to carry a gun, did it occur to trump that some teachers might be uncomfortable with such a plan? A February 2014 poll conducted by the Association of American Educators (AAE) found that only 26% of surveyed teachers would even consider bringing a firearm to school if they were allowed to. Applying these statistics to my high school would mean that instead of 12 teachers carrying a firearm to school, it would only be three. Not exactly a great return on investment for a “successful businessman.”
Jarrett Muzi, a high school Special Education/English teacher in West Chester, Penn., echoes the sentiments of a majority of teachers in the AAE poll. “I honestly believe that if this happens and I was selected, [that] would be the day I would start looking for a new career,” says Muzi. “I just don’t feel comfortable being responsible for the safety of the entire school.”
Surely this situation wouldn’t have occurred if someone other than a teacher had a gun. Oh right, they did and nothing happened. “Teachers would have far less training” than a highly-trained officer with hundreds of hours of training, according to a high school history teacher in New Jersey. “What’s to think [a teacher] would respond differently.”
As the father of two young kids, I’ll be damned if I send them to a school where any teachers are allowed to carry guns. With this half-baked idea, the risks truly outweigh the rewards. We’ve come to expect half-baked ideas from trump but we owe it to the victims of all school shootings to come up with a long-term solution that is comprehensive as well as practical.
To help the victims of the Florida school shooting, visit https://publicgood.com/media/cnn/campaign/help-parkland-school-shooting-victims