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.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
Jason Flanagan has been a journalist for nearly 12 years. At the age of 19, he began working for The Prince George’s Journal covering sports and later covered crime and education. A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Jason worked as a reporter and editor at The Diamondback and was recognized for his spot news coverage of the Beltway sniper in 2002. He has also worked at The Prince George’s Gazette, where he covered local and county governments, and most recently at The Baltimore Examiner, where he covered local and state governments as well as the military. Jason, a father of two daughters, is an English and journalism teacher and girls soccer coach at a high school in Maryland, where he constantly annoys students by correcting their writing and quoting long-since-dead authors. Follow Jason on twitter at @flanglish