Why Teachers Should Not be Armed
Often in recent years, school shootings have been followed by public, political debates about guns. One of the arguments from the pro-gun side is that teachers should be armed, in order to help prevent school shootings. Their argument is essentially that teachers are in position already, there in the school, and that they will have opportunities to stop a school shooter long before law enforcement can arrive on the scene and do the same. Their arguments, on the surface, do not sound unreasonable, but when examined more carefully, there are issues with these arguments. Arguments both for and against arming teachers have been examined, and the conclusion is that teachers should not be armed.
The Case for Arming Teachers
The case for arming teachers typically rests on the logic that teachers are in position in the schools, and therefore are a de facto first responder in the event of a school shooting. Their roles as protectors for students should, therefore, extend to being armed so that they can theoretically stop a shooter. These arguments are elaborated on by Sheriff Grady Judd, a member of the school safety commission that investigated the Parkland shooting. Judd points out that the average school shooting is between two and five minutes, and that law enforcement response time is typically over five minutes. As such, law enforcement alone cannot be relied upon to defend students against shooters (Fox, 2019).
There are a few caveats to this argument. The first is that proponents of arming teachers prefer that teachers should be trained. On the surface, this is reasonable and logical – training for all people who handle firearms makes sense. The lack of formal definition for what this training actually entails, and what standards should exist, is part of the problem with this line of argument. Schools, by and large, are run at local levels. In a country where there are no federal standards for law enforcement training, the idea that there would be reliable federal standards for teacher firearm training is implausible. Thus, trained teachers would in practice have a wide range of training, ranging from basic firearms handling to more advanced training.
Faster Saves Lives is a group that trains teachers to shoot to kill. However, even with that sort of training, there are other barriers to assuming that this will move the needle in defending students. First, training and real life experience are two entirely different things. When faced with automatic gunfire, and a rapidly evolving situation, people without experience in combat or law enforcement are unlikely to respond the same way. Indeed, the data shows that even law enforcement officers, with a much higher degree of training and experience, do not shoot accurately in a crisis encounter (Kirk, 2018).
Second, there are some fundamental problems with this model. First, there is a shortage of such training, and funding for it. Most teachers make little money and yet would have to cover the cost of this training, or the cost of acquiring a firearm and any relevant permits, themselves, which would create a barrier to implementation of the plan (Willis, 2019). Many districts have rejected the idea on purely…and this is one of those situations. This is not to say that teachers cannot be armed, just that they should not be armed as if they are responsible for keeping the school safe. That is a job of trained security professionals.
Teachers should not be armed in response to school shootings. Most teachers neither want this responsibility nor are equipped to bear it. They are not soldiers or police and should not be treated as such. Even with firearms training, there is no evidence to support the idea that teachers will be effective deterrants, or be able to shoot accurately enough to actually stop a shooter. Even if we conceded the point that occasionally a teacher can perform this role, and therefore there would be some reduction in school shooting deaths as a result of arming teachers, there are other, better solutions, and there are costs related to reduction in the quality of education, which is the primary objective of schools.
Schools should focus on educating students, and that should be the role of teachers as well. If security needs to be enhanced, trained security personnel should be utilized, rather than ill-equipped and ill-prepared teachers, most of whom want nothing to do with playing the security role. Measures to reduce the ability of shooters to do mass harm will be more effective than arming teachers at reducing death and injury due to school shootings. Thus, arming teachers probably will not solve the problem posed by school shooters, will definitely have negative effects, and is basically a political red herring used to distract from the more effective solution…
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