Opinion: Arming Teachers in Schools

President Donald Trump has proposed a solution to end classroom massacres once and for all: Arm some of America's teachers with concealed weapons, and train them to "immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions."  He suggested on Wednesday (Feb 21) that arming teachers and school staff members could provide security against events like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, in which 17 students and school workers were killed.  

During a meeting at the White House with students and parents from the school he said, "If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," then added "This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun.  It's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."

Trump clarified his comments on Thursday (Feb 22) morning, stressing that he said "to look at the possibility of" arming teachers with military backgrounds or special training - "only the best.  Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards."

But gun violence experts, educators, and school safety advocates immediately panned the idea, especially by veterans with experience using high-powered weapons and firing under duress.  Following are their comments as reported by major news sources: "Shooting under stress is extremely difficult, even for the most well-trained shooters," Jay Kirell, an Afghanistan veteran who has written about difficulties veterans face in civilian life, tweeted. "A teacher is not going to be able to do this. Cops & soldiers literally get paid to do this and most of them can't shoot accurately under stress. Not because they suck, but because it's nearly impossible to hit a target in one shot when pumped full of adrenaline," he added. "And if you're in a school with a shooter and dozens of children, if you're not shooting accurately you're just creating crossfire."

Data compiled by the New York City Police Department underscores the difficulty of firing accurately in challenging situations.  In 2005, NYPD officers intentionally fired their guns at someone 472 times, hitting their mark 82 times. In 2006, New York police fired under the same circumstances 364 times, hitting their target 103 times. That same year, Los Angeles police fired 67 times, recording 27 hits.

Other veterans responded directly to Trump, dismissing the idea of arming teachers as inappropriate and dangerous. Paul Szoldra, a Marine veteran, former Business Insider editor, and editor-in-chief at Code Red News and Duffle Blog, pointed out the challenges firearms present to military personnel trained to live and work with them.
"The act of having a pistol go off accidentally among military officers is so common it has its own name: 'desk pop,'" Szoldra wrote on Twitter. (A number of shootings reported on school grounds this year were accidental discharges.)  "Think about a law-enforcement officer showing up to an active scene where often they have no idea how many shooters or where they are. And then they run into a teacher with a gun. Or a veteran. Wonder what happens then," Szoldra added.

Kristen Beck, a transgender retired Navy SEAL, was one of a number of former service members who called for changes to gun laws.  "I am a retired combat veteran and I support common sense reform of our current gun laws," Beck tweeted. "The legislation absolutely must be steered by people who know about guns and are unpolarized by the Second Amendment."

Schools in some localities already have armed teachers, and teachers in some places have expressed interest in receiving training to carry concealed handguns. A number of state and national politicians have echoed Trump's suggestion in recent days, saying that armed teachers could provide classroom defense.  But educators - including those present during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - have also criticized the idea.  "We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers," Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district includes Stoneman Douglas High, said at a CNN town hall event on Wednesday. "You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket."  

Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers, said arming teachers was "one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas."  

"Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence," Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, which represents 3 million K-12 and college educators, told the Chicago Tribune. "We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that."

The National Association of School Resource Officers has backed hiring more trained law-enforcement officers - in part to make sure a student doesn't wind up with a teacher's gun.

Two final thoughts: (1) Armed teachers, as well as law enforcement personnel stationed at schools, could well be sought out by shooters as primary targets for their first shots, essentially moving targets with bulls eyes painted on their backs -- and very likely the first to be killed.

(2) Raising the legal age to purchase weapons from 18 to 21 is a very silly idea!  Think how easy it is for those below the legal age to buy alcohol by presenting a fake ID or getting a legal age person to buy it for them or, easier yet, steal guns from trusting or just careless parents.  Besides, raising the legal age will do nothing more than give politicians in the Washington cesspool (formerly the swamp) a headline to trumpet the enormous strides the law will take to fix the gun problem.

Gerald Gault