Gun lobby needs to go back to school

I came across an article in Education Week about conservative leaders calling for the arming of teachers. As an educator, I found this quite disturbing.

“We cannot continue to be shackled by politically correct, reflexive, anti-gun sentiment in the face of the obvious: Our schools are soft targets,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough, a Republican, said in the article.

So to solve the problem of massacres at schools (while tragic are thankfully rare) is to give guns to people in one of the most stressful jobs that require the management of children who sometimes behave in ways that we would consider undesirable. I’m sure we’ll never see a headline about a crazed teacher going on a shooting spree or a student stealing a teacher’s gun and committing a tragedy.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, echoed McCullough’s sentiment in his remarks following the Newtown shooting.

Is this really the solution?
Is this really the solution?

His solution is to require armed guards in every school in the country: “But what if — what if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?”

Interesting point, and many high schools in Maryland (including mine) have a police officer stationed on campus. Would an armed guard have stopped Lanza, who was more equipped than a police officer?

But there is one thing LaPierre forget to mention – Columbine High School had an armed sheriff’s deputy on duty that fateful day in 1999 when two well-armed shooters killed 12 students.

If adding more guns to the equation is best answer that the gun lobby has for this problem, then I’m deeply saddened that our education system has failed them so miserably. And in order to prevent the next generation from exhibiting the same gross absence of knowledge, history and critical-thinking skills, we most certainly should not turn schools into militarized zones.

When I hear that our schools are “soft targets” and that the only solution to armed madmen is by arming ourselves eerily reminds me of another time in history.

My students will never have a drill where they brace for nuclear war. My generation was last to experience it (the last fallout shelter drill I did was in 1987). Those of us who lived through the Cold War – and I only tasted the tail-end of it – should have learned the lesson that an arms race solves nothing and promotes fear, irrationality, and ignorance.

Allowing teachers to have guns and providing even more armed security at schools will just build a pattern of escalation much like the Cold War. School resource officers have pistols, so a madman will need an assault rifle, which he can easily get. So security guards now need assault rifles, and madmen will return in kind with armor-piercing ammunition, which they get easily get.

The carnage will only increase.

“The only way — the only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection,” LaPierre said in his remarks. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Stop school shootings with education – not guns.

When I took gun training as an armed guard for an armored car company, we had to learn how to shoot for the head because robbers have walked away after six rounds were emptied into their body armor. The good guys had guns; the bad guys had better guns and better equipment.

The sheriff’s deputy at Columbine responded in less than a minute, as is what LaPierre in his remarks said should happen. But that deputy was outmatched by well-armed teenagers carrying multiple weapons and bombs. He rightly called for back-up; meanwhile, the duo went on their rampage. An armed guard doesn’t guarantee safety.

But armed guards and armed teachers do promote a climate of a police state. If this the “reality” mentioned in LaPierre’s remarks, should we perpetuate it? Why not create a culture, a new “reality” where teenagers do not need to resort to violence to express themselves?

We have extinguishers to stop fires when they start – much like we have armed guards – but we don’t purposely allow open flames come in contact with flammable objects – much like we do when we grant unsettled people firepower unmatched by many police departments.

It's not that simple, but the NRA would have you believe it is.
It’s not that simple, but the NRA would have you believe it is. How about we teach civics?

If my school felt that having an armed school resource officer was adequate protection, then why are there other measures, such as school IDs, controlled entry and surveillance systems? That’s where the energy for improved security needs to be focused.

Militarizing schools doesn’t create the environment for learning. All it will do is create the feeling of a prison. If we want innovation and enlightenment, we need to show the world that our school buildings are places to make a difference – not a place where you’re likely to get shot.

American history shows that there was a time where the common man needed to be armed against a government still finding its way and a world power invading our borders and harbors. We no longer need militias to protect cities like Baltimore against the Redcoats. And we can change our government through the other Constitutional freedoms, not armed revolts.

Maybe LaPierre’s call for federal spending on armed guards should be directed at our civics classrooms, which are producing students with a less-than-basic understanding of our government, so we can bring up learners who use the Constitution more than just the Second Amendment.

Maybe we should teach better critical-thinking skills we can avoid these situations or come up with finer solutions than an arms race.

One thought on “Gun lobby needs to go back to school

  • January 3, 2013 at 5:45 AM

    I agree with a lot of what you say. But I wouldn’t compare the call for armed teachers with the Cold War’s arms race. I see it as more of the current nuclear threat–rogue terrorist group armed with a bomb determined to destroy the US/West.

    I think the difference lies in the result. What kept both sides of the Cold War at bay was mutually assured destruction. Neither wanted to launch weapons knowing that they themselves would also be destroyed. Now, I imagine that if the US had chosen not to participate in the arms race, then the Soviets would have much more tempted to push the button. But since they didn’t want to commit suicide, they just continued to stockpile more nukes.

    But suicide is no longer a deterrent in the current jihadist’s gamebook. Suicide bombers are common. And this is why this is more of an accurate analogy. These mass shooters, including the monster in Sandy Hook, had no fear of death or with the thought of turning the gun on himself after his attack. This is why this massive problem can’t be approached on just one front.

    I agree with you that the school as a whole should be made more secure. Arming teachers does raise more possible problems. Plus, teachers are already on the front lines–as it were–of education. We shouldn’t put the added responsibility of being armed to protect their students on their already burdened shoulders. Teachers can’t even get enough support/funding/help to carry out their main mission of education, so why should “we” just default to having them defend the students? That doesn’t make sense.

    Secure school compounds at this time could be a short-term solution. But the long-term solution has to be overall prevention. Limiting access to weapons. Preventing people from wanting to do these evil acts in the first place. (Again, the same approach the US takes toward limiting the threat of terrorists’ use of nuclear weapons against us/our allies.) Diplomacy of sorts.

    Increasing mental health funding, of course, has to be part of this equation. As a person who has benefited from insurance-covered health care, I know how much of a difference mental health care can make in a person.

    I absolutely do not envy you and your fellow teachers. The battle you already have to fight to get what you need to do your jobs has to be tough and frustrating. I can’t imagine how it feels with the NRA and certain politicians making you armed guards. It’s neither fair nor the solution. Keep the doors secure and keep the classrooms free of weapons.

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