Is arming classroom teachers a serious option in addressing the problem of gun violence in our schools? If this question seems far-fetched, it is actually being once again advocated by more than a few officials, legislators and citizens in our country.
The standard caveat of those advocating for the arming of teachers in schools is that the teachers would have to first be “trained.” However, practicing until one can hit a bull’s-eye in the controlled environment of a shooting range would mean nothing.
Imagine the chaos in a classroom full of children if an armed intruder entered a school and was walking down the hall firing a gun. Imagine screaming, terrified children running around uncontrollably, crying, fainting, throwing up, clinging to their teacher for safety. Imagine a teacher, struggling against panic, with trembling hands, unlocking the drawer where the gun is stored. (Is anyone actually advocating having a loaded gun within the reach of children?)
The intruder gets closer to the classroom. The teacher pushes her way through the swarm of children desperately holding onto her arms and legs to get to the door before the intruder does. He gets there first and enters the room. With children milling around her, she takes a steady aim and, with children all around her, kills the intruder with one shot. Or she gets to the door first and, subduing every instinct not to leave her children, gets into the hallway, levels her handgun at the AR-15-wielding assailant and drops him with a single shot.
Is either of these scenarios realistic? Wouldn’t this teacher have to have the training of a Navy SEAL to successfully perform such a feat? And how would she gain this elite level of expertise? By “training” a couple of hours a week at the local shooting range? That wouldn’t duplicate the extreme stress level she will have to learn to anticipate and overcome when an active shooter is in the building. The only possible way for her to have even the remotest chance of successfully “neutralizing” an active shooter is, like a Navy SEAL, by practicing in a real-life situation.
That would mean having children be part of the hours and hours of practice necessary for the teacher to gain proficiency sufficient for a successful conclusion. And wouldn’t success be the only acceptable outcome? Would anyone advocate arming a teacher with an attitude of “maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, let’s see”?
The “active shooter drill” would have to be as much a part of an average school day as show and tell, book reports and reading groups. It would have to be part of the curriculum for grades K-12. And since new teachers would always need “training” too, it is likely that a child would have to take part in active shooter drill every year from kindergarten until high school graduation just as they do now for fire drills. Of course, the chances are such training will never be necessary. Which means those children will have been traumatized and scarred for life for absolutely no reason.
And finally, let’s not forget that the police entering the building, for all their training, are human beings. Adrenaline is flooding their systems too. In this highly charged atmosphere, an officer seeing a person in the hallway or classroom holding a gun could very well mean a teacher shot dead in the sight of her children.
While the scenarios would differ in some respects, this horrific storyline would not be so different in a church, theater, ballpark, museum — anywhere people gather. Anecdotal evidence of incidents where a “good guy” with a gun was successfully able to counter a “bad guy” with a gun is not persuasive in a country where the death rate by guns is astronomically higher than the rest of the industrialized world.
Rather than arming ourselves, let’s take three reasonable and realistic steps to address the epidemic of violence caused by assault rifles and those that are similar in their lethal ability.
1) Since there is there is no legitimate civilian purpose for the continued sale and manufacture of AR-15 type weapons, stop making and selling them. Give owners the option of selling them to the government and melt them down.
2) Require and enforce universal background checks for all gun sales. Require all sellers and buyers to be identified on the purchase agreement, i.e. gun stores, gun shows, private sales in the same way all car transactions are presently carried out.
3) Lift the ban on studying gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and fully fund it.
To those who will say criminals will still gain access to guns and use them if they want to, I say we must not continue to go along with the idea of making the perfect the enemy of the good. No solution will be perfect, but if even one child’s life is saved because of an imperfect law, then I’m for it. Who wouldn’t be?
David Madden is a resident of Westerly.