Arming Teachers is a Recipe for Disaster

GaiaOn March 13th, 2018 a gun trained teacher in California accidentally discharged a weapon at the ceiling during a gun safety class. As a result, debris and bullet fragments ricocheted and minorly injured a 17 year old student. This incident occurred less than a month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead and many more injured.

The Parkland shooting has sparked many conversations regarding gun legislation and how schools can be better prepared to protect students and staff from an attacker. One specific suggestion that has been particularly contentious is the proposal to arm teachers with guns as a means of defense.

Although it is clear that things need to change, arming teachers is not the answer. Accidents can happen, especially under pressure, and educators who are not properly equipped to deal with such high stress situations could easily make judgement calls that result in tragic consequences. With the instinct to act fast, teachers may pull the trigger before properly aiming or confirming their target and unintentionally hit an innocent bystander. Law enforcement officers may also accidentally shoot an armed teacher in confusion, mistaking them for the gunman.

Many students, including myself, would feel uncomfortable with the idea of physically having guns in our classrooms.

Educators are not qualified to act in security or military jobs. They are not police officers.

To arm teachers would  force them to take on a responsibility they did not sign up for or expect. A recent Gallup poll of 500 teachers nationwide revealed 73 percent oppose guns in the classroom and 58 percent said it would actually make schools less safe.

Security guards and campus safety officers are hired because districts recognize there are some volatile scenarios in which educators alone are not equipped to get under control. Asking teachers to be both educators and security officers is unfair and irresponsible.

The ability to handle a gun and being prepared to go into a high stakes shootout are two very different things. Law enforcement officers undergo an intense psychological evaluation and 6 months of police academy training before they are put into these positions, yet we expect our educators to have this mindset after some basic training. It is ridiculous to expect private citizens to suddenly become as level-headed and quick thinking as trained officers.

Monetarily, arming teacher would not make sense. Buying guns and ammunition alone would be extremely costly. Additionally, every teacher with access to the weapon would need to go through extensive training on handling a firearm, aiming and carrying out these steps proficiently in a life or death situation. Even if the money is not being taken directly from the school system’s funds, it is going to have to be used at the expense of another program.

Furthermore, most teachers would not be handling these weapons on a regular basis and may forget essential information such as how to use properly use a firearm. The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is a widely accepted theory regarding learning and retention. According to this theory, the average human brain recalls far less than half of information learned after month if it is not regularly practiced. In all likelihood it would be much longer until a situation arose in which a teacher was required to use their firearm.

How often would we require teachers to retake the training? Would educators be forced to put in weekly or monthly hours at the shooting range to keep their skills sharp? How would the gun be secured and who would keep the keys? Solutions are easy to hypothesize about, but often the ‘answers’ simply create more questions.

A lot of the contradictions I’ve seen are in regards to potential safety concerns regarding guns being in classrooms. An example I’ve heard is having the firearms stored in a hidden location to prevent students from getting to them, however this defeats the entire purpose of having teachers with quick access to defense weapons.

I am in agreement that things have to change, if not within government, the school systems, however, this is not the way. There are many less complicated, dangerous and costly actions school districts can take before resorting to such drastic measures: bulletproof glass, solid and clear escape routes and procedures, more security officers, etc.  

Those who are pushing for armed teachers have the best intentions, but I have yet to see a practical, safe way this could be implemented. It’s easy to get caught up in emotion of the moment. None of us want an unnecessary tragedy like this to happen again, yet adding more weapons to schools seems like a counter intuitive solution.

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