Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent the views of Babble.
Another shooting, another list of kids being buried by their parents. Here we go, round and round every few months, and sometimes even weeks. After Sandy Hook in 2012, President Obama assembled an inter-agency gun-violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. Meetings were had, ideas were thrown around, and a plan for gun reform — including closing background check loopholes and banning assault weapons — was brought before Congress, where it was sadly met with resistance and never saw the light of day.
And now after Parkland, more meetings are being had and more ideas are being thrown around, including one backed by President Trump this week that’s raising eyebrows: The notion that we should arm school teachers with guns.
“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” Trump said during a listening session, adding that schools could arm up to 20 percent of their teachers as a precautionary measure.
Because apparently, the only way to eradicate gun violence in schools is to … add more guns to the equation?
As a former high school teacher, I know what teachers are feeling right now. I know how scary it is to wonder if your school will be next. Whether your classroom will be the first hit, or the last. Will you have to shield your students? Can you hide them all? Will you be able to lock the door in time?
And now, I’m a parent with children hopping on the bus and heading off to school every day. And I, too, wonder, Will our school be next? Are my children’s schools prepared? (Are any schools prepared for a massacre?) What will their teachers do? Should I teach my kids to play dead? Run away in a zig-zag pattern to decrease their chances of getting hit?
So I get it. I get the need to take action and do something after Columbine and Sandy Hook; Virginia Tech and now Parkland. We have to protect our kids in school, but arming teachers is a recipe for disaster. Arming teachers will not make our kids safer, nor will it make our teachers safer.
I was 22 when I landed my first teaching job, and could have easily passed for a high schooler. As a woman, I’d likely be perceived as non-threatening, since mass shooters are statistically white males. But what about the new teachers I taught alongside of who were men? Those teachers that also were fresh out of college and looked like high schoolers, too. So when the police show up to apprehend the shooter and hear gun shots coming from this new teacher’s classroom and see a white male holding a gun, what do you think they are going to do?
Sam Zeif, an 18-year old survivor of the February 14 shooting also disagrees with Trump’s proposal. He told MSNBC this week, “That is absurd to feel the need to arm those innocent people with the choice of not knowing if they’re going to have to kill a kid that day. This is not the Wild West.”
President Trump clarified his initial comments on the matter Thursday, adding the suggestion for bonus compensation for teachers willing to be trained and carry a gun in their school. Teachers, who are already paid low salaries in comparison to most other professions requiring one, if not two degrees. Teachers, who already use chunks of their own paychecks to purchase school supplies, and sometimes even clothing and food for their impoverished students. Teachers, who are paying off student loans for 30 years and stressing about how they’ll put their own kids through college.
You’re now going to dangle this carrot in front of them? If you’re willing to carry a loaded weapon around with you that a student could grab at any time … If you’re willing to carry the burden of fear that comes from accidentally shooting an innocent person … If you’re willing to be the person held responsible for stopping a massacre even though you’re not a soldier, police officer, or even someone who has ever even been in a fist fight, guess what? Here’s some extra cash for you.
When asked about the cost of this plan to arm teachers — which according to CNN could be well into the hundreds of millions of dollars — White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah responded, that the policy “hasn’t been fleshed out.” He then added, “Do we really think that that’s too much to pay for school safety?”
I think we can all agree there’s no price tag we can put on our children’s safety. But you also can’t just throw money at a problem and expect to magically fix it.
And then there’s this: For the teachers I know, it’s hard for this whole argument to not feel like a slap in the face. Especially when it’s sounding like lawmakers are only now willing to spend money on education and supporting teachers if they in turn are willing to put their lives on the line.
There is something wrong with this picture.
In a press conference Thursday, President Trump said that “gun-free zones” were a dream for a mass shooter, and reasoned that if we put more guns in schools, criminals would be deterred from attacking. But as it turns out, schools that have “gun-free zones” are a dream for parents and teachers, too.
Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s proposal has been met with quite a bit of resistance, especially from teachers. “Teachers don’t want to be armed,” Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, told CNN. “We want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”
Mark Barden, a gun control advocate who lost his son Daniel in the Sandy Hook massacre, and whose spouse is a teacher, echoed that sentiment to NBC News, saying, “School teachers have more than enough responsibilities right now than to have the awesome responsibility of lethal force to take a life.”
Fortunately, the president has shown support for sensible measures including comprehensive background checks, mental health measures, raising the age to buy firearms to 21, and banning bump stocks, NBC News reports. Hopefully those pieces of his plan stick, and our administration comes to realize that teachers are not soldiers or police officers, but rather professionals that are there to teach algebra and the scientific method.
How about letting them do their jobs and, instead, making it harder for people to get access to semi-automatic weapons that can take 17 lives in three minutes? Maybe we could put some of those “hundreds of millions of dollars” towards that.