In response to a mass school shooting, there are those who believe we need stricter gun control laws and those who believe we need increased school safety protocol.
Despite the fact that these two groups could work together in pursuit of a common cause – the safety of our children, they rarely do. And Parkland, Florida, my home and the site of one of the worst school shootings in 2018, is no exception to that rule.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been nonpartisan efforts, such as Stand With Parkland, an organization led by Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina, was killed in the February shooting. The organization aims to tackle three core issues: school safety enhancements, improved mental health care and responsible firearm ownership.
Having lived through the horrors of Parkland myself, I can attest to the importance of addressing all three of these issues. In fact, since February, I’ve been working and advocating in this space. Why? Because no other student should experience what my classmates and I had to ever again.
However, even with Stand With Parkland’s good work, there remains a large division in the Parkland community on which issue is worth addressing – and what the root cause of school violence really is.
Almost two weeks ago, it seemed that the group advocating for increased safety protocol won one of these battles. A majority of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommended that part of the solution to preventing these horrible mass shootings is arming teachers. That’s right, those commissioners believe that putting guns in the hands of Florida’s underpaid guardians of education is the right way to handle these terrifying situations.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a member of the Marjory Stoneman commission, even said: “In the ideal world, we shouldn’t need anyone on campus with a gun, but that’s not the world we live in today.” He added, “One’s not enough. Two’s not enough. We need multiple people in order to protect the children.”
To be frank, I was shocked that this idea ever became a formalized policy recommendation. As someone who has devoted the weeks and months since tragedy befell my school to gun control efforts and school safety, I can tell you that arming teachers would not make me feel any safer in a classroom setting.
For those who do not understand the true danger behind arming teachers, let me explain.
At first glance, the idea of putting firearms in the possession of our nation’s teachers might seem like a good idea. If somebody comes into the building with malicious intent, the teacher can potentially swiftly end the threat.
That being said, most teachers are not trained marksmen – and that poses its own set of risks.
According to a 2008 Rand study, trained New York police officers – who, in theory, have a solid foundation in gun use – often miss their targets. In fact, they only have a hit rate of 18%. And, even in close-range shootings, they only have 37% success.
So, if we want our teachers also to be our guardians, we’ll need to train them. But even with that kind of training, they may still miss their targets most of the time – just as police officers do. There’s also an added risk of them missing their mark and injuring other innocent students or teachers in the process.
But let’s say a teacher somehow effectively does neutralize the shooter. When the police arrive at the site of the shooting and see a teacher with a gun standing next to the dead body of what looks like a student, are the police expected simply to ask, “Hey, you’re a good guy, right?” before acting?
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This, of course, ignores other simpler questions. Where are the teachers storing these weapons? Is there a gun safe in every classroom? Is Mrs. Doe from our physical education class sporting a thigh holster every day?
No matter where you may fall on the school safety debate – either for stricter gun control or enhanced safety protocol – I urge you to remove the arming of teachers from your agenda. Several other tactics – such as adding bullet-proof windows, expulsion of students with clearly violent tendencies and increased mental health access on campus – can and hopefully will be implemented to protect our students from shooters wielding weapons of mass murder.
In short, there are ways we can prevent further violence in our classrooms. But by arming teachers, everyone engaged in the school safety debate loses.