Arming teachers is ludicrous and shortsighted

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor

The solution to America’s gun problem does not lie with teachers. Rather, it is the responsibility of policymakers to implement effective school safety measures. It is incredibly shortsighted to think that distributing more guns within schools will reduce the number of school shootings. Suggesting that teachers should be armed with guns reflects an avoidance of the real question of why school shootings are even able to happen in the first place and why they have been happening so frequently in the past few years.

On Feb. 24, President Trump tweeted, “Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again — a big [and] very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.” According to The Guardian, if Trump’s proposal was taken literally, that would mean giving guns to about 718,000 teachers, which is almost the size of the army and navy combined.

According to TIME Trump’s proposal is a “quick and cheap solution to a difficult and expensive problem” for many reasons. Teachers are not trained to wield a weapon, and it most certainly is not in their job description. While teachers should protect their students by following standard safety protocol during a crisis, they are not responsible for shooting the attacker. That’s the police department’s job.

Even police officers have a difficult time “reacting to threats and properly executing the use of deadly force," says TIME. According to The New York Times, even trained police officers only hit their targets one-third of the time. During actual gunfights, their accuracy can be as low as 13 percent. So, how can teachers be expected to accurately wield a gun in high-stress situations like a school shooting? Instead of proposing that teachers should be trained to use a weapon, why not hire more police officers to protect students and spend more money on improving building safety measures?

Additionally, teachers work in such close proximity with students that an incident with accidental discharge is almost guaranteed. Students and parents cannot be sure that the gun is securely locked away and completely inaccessible to students. They will live with constant uncertainty and “what ifs” due to the fear of the gun getting into the wrong hands.

If a teacher owns a gun in the classroom, that also stands in the way of a positive teacher-student relationship. Teachers are mentors, advisors, guides, and confidants. The classroom is supposed to be a safe place. Students’ knowledge that their teacher owns a gun can paint an antagonistic picture of the teacher. Guns say "stand back", rather than "stand up". They will make students feel less safe around their teachers, and thus are not conducive to the teacher-student relationship.

The most important question that Trump failed to consider before his thoughtless proposal to arm teachers is: How would the guns (and training) be paid for? According to The Guardian Trump proposed slashing five billion dollars from the Department of Education, and programs to pay for school counselors and violence prevention would be the first to go. In order to fund guns and training, he would have to increase the budget he so ardently wants to slash. The whole idea is ridiculous. Teachers don’t ask for much; they just want to be paid fairly and to have enough supplies in their classroom to educate their students effectively without paying for it themselves. It would be so much more helpful to increase funding for school supplies and mental health awareness programs than for guns. It is shameful that this needs to be spelled out for the President.

Such a ludicrous proposition as arming teachers with guns lends itself to so many ethical and legislative questions. Who would be responsible if a teacher missed and shot the wrong person? What if a student gained access to the weapon? What if a teacher refused to wield the weapon? Do they have a choice? Should they be paid more due to this additional responsibility? The list goes on.

It’s common sense. You can’t fight fire with fire. That’s just not how it works. In order to eliminate school shootings, you cannot add more guns. Rather, we need to have stricter gun laws and perhaps even ammunition control. Research shows that gun availability increased "the rates of several violent crimes in a sample of cities across 39 countries.” Further research revealed that the number of guns per capita per country is a strong predictor of firearm-related deaths. The U.S. is late in realizing that gun availability is the problem. It took several school shootings for this issue to even bubble to the surface. And our President still doesn’t believe it. In comparison to other countries, the U.S. is quite archaic in its gun control policies. In Australia for example, only 14 percent of homicides are committed by firearms, compared to 60 percent in the U.S. The U.S. gun ownership rate is more than five times the Australian rate. The statistics don’t lie. It is astounding that we aren’t already scrambling to revise our policies.

Let’s reframe the way we have this debate. As Ciamacca wrote in TIME, “Let’s not talk about school shootings in terms of gun control and mental health. Let’s talk about school safety.” She’s right. There’s no time to wait for stricter gun control policies or a reasonable President. The best course of action for students, parents, and teachers is one of prevention. We need metal detectors, panic buttons, security cameras, and doors and windows that can be secured in the case of a school shooter. We need trained police officers who can protect students while they learn and teachers while they educate. We don’t need more guns.