Gun-Toting Teachers?

The idea that teachers armed with guns will in any way stop or mitigate the deaths of students being killed by unhappy other students or other individuals is not only one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard, but it shows just how little the President, the NRA, or others who advocate this know about schools, students, teaching, and teachers.

First off, most teachers teach. That means that when an attack occurs, they’re in the classroom. Every shooter enters the school and is then in a hallway, and in the vast majority of the mass shootings, this is where majority of students are shot. Second, if the teacher’s classroom door is locked, he or she is immediately faced with the choice of risking his students’ lives by unlocking the door. If the teacher does open or unlock the door, even if the teacher has a weapon, he or she will be faced with chaos – screaming students most likely fleeing, with no initial indication who is shooting or from where. The teacher just becomes another target, and even if that doesn’t happen, in trying to return fire in that chaos, there’s a high probability that the teacher will wound or kill innocent students. As a side note, I might add that the SWAT team in the Florida shooting labeled and restrained a totally innocent student, and they’re supposed to be trained in that sort of matter.

Then there’s the question of expertise in weapons. These days most teachers I know, and I know a great number of them, are already overwhelmed by the continual increase in duties and responsibilities, many of them administrative and bureaucratic accountability requirements. So in addition to making teachers responsible not only for teaching, but for inspiring students, many of whom have little desire to exert themselves in learning, and for providing endless reams of paper and data to administrators and politicians, those who want to arm teachers want to add the duty of bodyguard. And effective bodyguards need lots of training and practice. So who’s supposed to pay for that? The teachers? In the United States, we already ask too much of teachers for too little pay. [There was a story in the Salt Lake Tribune in just the last day or so stating that beginning, degreed, full-time teachers in many districts actually qualify for food stamps.]

Some may also claim that having armed teachers will serve as a deterrent. Having armed police who are trained in weapons doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent in society. And in a school setting, having a few armed teachers won’t matter, either, especially to a disturbed individual, most of whom, it appears, don’t seem to even care if they get killed so long as they can kill others to make a point or even some unknown score.

Like it or not, more arms, whether carried by police or teachers, won’t do a damned thing to stop or even reduce school shootings and student deaths. Giving better psychological healthcare and screening and keeping semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of would-be shooters would do far more.

But then, that would restrict everyone’s freedom to carry weapons designed for multiple murders.

11 thoughts on “Gun-Toting Teachers?”

  1. Alan says:

    This is essentially what the pro-gun, reasonable, faction have been saying every time this little chestnut of an idea is brought up. We don’t pay teachers enough as it, the schools can’t afford to pay enough to enough teachers, nor for school supplies, etc. Yet they expect to have money for this?

    It would quickly become a half-assed effort, even if it starts out well meaning. The teachers would be taken out of school once a month or every six months for a few hours on the range. That would be the best you could hope for.

    It takes a great deal of training to handle a weapon efficiently, effectively, safely before introducing a shooting situation where they may have to use it.

    This is all before you consider the sort of environment schools are. Children are annoying, self-centered and frustrating creatures. What would a poorly trained, already stressed and over-worked teacher do with that student who really is a royal pain in the rump when they’ve got a gun?

    It’s this sort of half-cocked idea that frustrates many competent and conscientious gun owners. This is an example of a Bad Idea for any number of reasons. It’s almost as bad as the notion of banning all semi-automatic guns or the other ideas floating around about gun restrictions. Most gun owners I know agree this would not help. No more than making AR-15’s illegal or reducing magazine size or any of the other proposals. Money and effort would be far better spent addressing the root causes within society which are causing the shootings.

    1. Hanneke says:

      Assault weapons, and specifically AR15s, are fundamentally different from handguns and hunting rifles in the amount of damage they can do.
      So regulations on assault weapons do not automatically morph into regulations on all guns, any gun meant *not* to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible but meant instead to kill a deer or other prey, or shoot and deter an assailant (or several assailants), would not be limited by a ban on weapons of war, including assault rifles, in the hands of civilians.

      I understand that some Americans consider it necessary to be able to stockpile enough arms to win a civil war against their own government, but the chance that some civilian gun owners owning assault rifles will be enough to tip that balance needs to be weighed against the harm done by assault rifles being available to disturbed civilians to commit murders. The potential benefit is minuscule, considering the government owns bombing drones and tanks and lots more and heavier armaments to take out revolutionary civilians armed with assault rifles, and have proved not to be reluctant to use those against civilians elsewhere. The harms have been amply demonstrated around the USA, in many more mass killings and deaths.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        There have for some time been districts that allowed (not required!) teachers to carry. Those I’ve heard of provided the training at their expense; in at least one case, meeting or exceeding standards for police active shooter training. If there are any studies reporting the consequences of that policy, I haven’t seen them.

        Probably more police in the schools would be more effective, or at the very least, easier, often quicker, and probably less controversial.

        If there were any benefit from the possibility of suitably trained teachers carrying (as contrasted with simply more police), the one I’d predict is that a school would no longer be a “gun free zone” per se, i.e. a place where aside from very obvious uniformed police officers, a scofflaw could safely assume everyone else was unarmed. For someone unfamiliar with the school, undercover police might have the same effect, but many if not most school shootings were by current or former students, who would likely know the difference.

        There may be a correlation between “gun free zones” and mass shootings; in states that allow concealed carry, private property owners can still require that patrons not carry on their property; and as I recall, the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting was such a situation. So in a general sense, perhaps mass shooters might favor gun free locations. But school shootings seem to be a far more specific choice of venue (often a student with a grudge as well as other issues), so any prediction whether changing one parameter would deter, is speculative at best, until studies have been done.

        Banning anything would probably not be effective (because millions are out there, and most people will _not_ willingly surrender them unless it was something left from parents that they didn’t want anyway; including for a buyback at half or less the previous market value; we are _not_ Australia), although requiring the same background check for all firearms as for handguns might not be unreasonable (as some have noted, in some states, it is easier to buy an AR-15 than a handgun; although in other states, anything resembling an AR-15 will have to have had a number of features removed and perhaps other alterations to be sold at all).

        An AR-15 is not a “weapon of war” (you won’t find one on an actual battlefield), an M-16 is. Unlike an AR-15, an M-16 has has an additional selector lever position: three round burst mode (newer models) or full auto. An AR-15’s selector only has two positions, safety and semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot). Most non-ancient models have (and are probably required to have) internal differences sufficient to make it more difficult to alter than just replacing a few parts; and in any event, those parts are as strictly controlled as full auto firearms themselves.

        Magazine limits are also easily circumvented; it’s been demonstrated to be not that difficult to alter a magazine for increased capacity, and given 3D printers, one could probably make one’s own magazine entirely, or nearly so; indeed, the necessary information to 3D print an entire firearm (which can be done, except for the barrel, firing chamber, and bolt, perhaps) has been available online for some years now. Even a pump shotgun, with a tube below the barrel for the shells, can easily have its capacity increased with a screw-on extension.

        The attempt to control firepower is largely lost, probably permanently. Even some who regard that as unfortunate, but are speaking from knowledge rather than wish or posturing, have come to the same conclusion.

        Pragmatically, the answer will be more cameras and more guards.

        The long term answer would be an understanding and fix for the issues that contribute to violence in general (not just firearms, since in their absence, people _will_ use knives, explosives, fists, etc, with those whose objective is simply high numbers favoring explosives, or trucks; and note that those interested in high numbers may be willing to be caught or killed, which if they’re not incompetent, makes them stopping them disruptively difficult regardless of restrictions on firearms). But that long term answer would be difficult to achieve, probably not fit neatly into a sound bite, and perhaps not neatly into any particular political ideology either, so I don’t give it good odds.

      2. R. Hamilton says:

        Oh, on the civil war scenario, it’s not that simple. First, that view is more accurately that the 2nd Amendment exists foremost to deter tyranny as well as to emphasize a right that existed in English law (1689 Bill of Rights) but only with such restrictions (e.g. only Protestants, and only as the law may provide) as to make it demonstrably too easily marginalized, as well as inadequate in the US; and only secondarily for self-defense and other lawful purposes. I don’t think I’d call that civil war as such, and most views of a deterrent are that it’s only needed if absent; if it’s there, it probably won’t need to be used, although there may be no way of knowing with certainty what if anything was actually deterred.

        Second, the government definitely has an advantage in heavy weapons; but (a) soldiers are citizens too, and many would refuse to fire on civilians of their own country, and local forces might be even more reluctant; and (b) government forces, federal, state and local together, might be outnumbered by 10 or 20 to 1.

  2. Hanneke says:

    If the presence of an armed guard or teacher worked as a deterrent, the latest school shooting in Florida would not have occured. There was an armed guard on site, and his presence failed to act as a deterrent. The fact that the guard didn’t go in was not something the shooter could have counted on, so the chance of being shot by the guard (or the police as soon as they arrived) was something the shooter knew and accepted.

    Arming 20% of the teachers with conceiled carry guns will have some sure-fire consequences:
    1) there will be more gun accidents in schools;
    2) all teachers will become immediate targets for school shooters, as they can’t know which of them are carrying weapons.
    Likely consequences include:
    3) less people will want to become teachers, knowing that they are immediate targets for a school shooter, and knowing that they are expected to take up gun training and practise to kill one of their pupils if said pupil becomes dangerous. People going into the military expect to be trained to kill, and recognise that they will have to learn to live with doing so.That is not the mindset of someone wanting to teach and help kids.
    4) The chance for even a trained soldier or law-enforcement officer freezing momentarily in their first lethal confrontation is real; expecting a teacher to react exactly right *and* have perfect aim in such a situation is not realistic for most teachers. The chance of innocent bystanders being shot by teachers is not unrealistic, if the teacher decides to shoot at all.
    5) As mr.Modesitt noted, armed teachers will have to open their locked classroom doors to go out into the hallway to confront a shooter. This will mean exposing the kids hiding and sheltering in their classroom to the shooter in the hallway – both while the door is open, and by drawing his attention to there being targets available behind that door.
    6) A conceiled-carry handgun is less powerful than an assault weapon. The chance that the shooter with his AR15, alerted by the opening door, kills the armed teacher before the teacher can kill him is quite high. The shooter would then have an open door into another classroom full of kids, and an extra weapon (the teacher’s gun) if he picks that up in passing. Pure folly!

    Some other possible consequences of having several handguns in each school, every day, include
    7) a heightened chance for confrontations among students, or between students and faculty, to get out of hand. Teachers are threatened with violence from students and their parents every day, in many schools around the country. At the moment the teacher alerts a school guard or someone like that, the offender is sent to detention or the principal or given a few days suspension. If the teachers are armed, and maybe afraid the offender will grab their gun off them, these confrontations could get a lot more violent quickly.
    8) And suicidal or homicidal students would have one more avenue to getting a weapon on impulse, capable of killing quickly and surely even in the hands of an untrained person, if they know some teachers carry a gun, or keep it in their handbag or locker or somewhere around school. A suicidap teen shooting themselves with a gun is a lot more likely to die than one taking an overdose of pills or cutting their wrists. That means that the likelihood of guns in schools leading to more (succesful) teen suicides is not zero; the availability of guns in general has already been linked to succesful suicides.

    1. Lourain says:

      As a retired teacher, I’m not sure if my response to the idea of gun-carrying teachers is to laugh hysterically, or to gag.
      You, and Mr Modesitt make sense.

    2. M. Kilian says:

      1) Accidents?
      2) They aren’t already? So what, that they pose a risk to a successful shooting somehow defeats not being able to prevent the shooting?
      3) So going even further into that, you wouldn’t support a teacher aggressively stopping a relative or a dear friend/lover if they were about to open fire on children?
      4) And wouldn’t the school shooter probably give a trained teacher a cue, possibly even flinching themselves?
      5) Because locking the door and huddling up in a classroom really helped at Sandy Hook, didn’t it?
      6) A handgun has better accuracy in the hands of a trained person and more than enough to take down an individual. Mass shooters on the other hand probably pick assault rifles if they want to get more targets, no?
      7) Purely fabricated scenarios. There have been altercations both with and without guns for a long time between teachers and students. The point of a concealed carry is to conceal the fact you carry a weapon.
      8) Conceal carry again, and both suicidal and homicidal tendencies will have avenues either way- like you said, pills and razor blades. By the time a depressed teen is considering shooting themselves, without access to guns they’ll probably be further along with the aforementioned tools.

      I’m not saying arming the teachers is the correct response to the problem, but your arguments against it are half-baked because they are only looking at the scenarios from one angle. As a deterrent it’s not a bad idea in theory, but in practice it’s less than economical.

  3. Cindy says:

    Of course then there is the question, could I really shoot to kill a student and then live with myself afterwards…even knowing that perhaps I had saved lives…
    Personally, I would rather put my body in front of bullets to save lives rather than take one.

    And then what happens when SWAT enters the building and here is a teacher holding a gun…how the h*LL do they know I’m not the shooter?

    1. M. Kilian says:

      I’m sure that the students will be happy to know that your mental well being was more important than their lives, since your corpse probably won’t be stopping a shooter.

      Law enforcement should act on as much information as they can possibly scrounge on a scenario. If a teacher is standing holding a gun at someone without a gun they might jump to conclusions, but just holding a gun? Really?

    2. Cindy's Student (posted by rehcra) says:

      I am a student And I am Pissed OFF!! Knowing my TEACHER is unwilling to shoot me!!!! How dare you have moral Qualms Cindy. HOW dare you!! Your dead now because me and Kilian say so. I disagree with his saying I am also dead cause I jumped out a window or brought my own gun for self defense cause I am no pleb. wait I am the shooter in this seniorio? Oh well either way I brought a gun.

      Ya and if the Law Enforcement Officer makes a mistake that’s on him. How complex we make the incident is our own god given right as citizens. We shouldn’t have to worry about his qualms neither. No matter how many of us have guns at our school.

  4. darcherd says:

    Well, yeah, just holding a gun is enough to get you killed by a police office. Just ask any person of color in this country.

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