Crossfire: The Case Against Arming Our Teachers

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Crossfire: The Case Against Arming Our Teachers

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Teachers should not have a gun in the classroom for protection.

Arming our teachers is not an effective solution in response to an armed intruder. While there is some weight to arming our teacher and our staff, the sheer number and severity of everything that could possibly go wrong definitely outweighs the perceived benefits.

The “convenience” of a nearby firearm may cause teachers to misplace their focus. They may be more likely to turn to the gun for a solution, rather than maintain their focus on the students. Instead of relying on a teacher’s individual aim, as well as their willingness to shoot, schools should focus on getting students safely out of the building as soon as possible.

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a series of instructions to follow in response to a situation involving an active shooter. The instructions can be applicable to a school or work environment.  It also includes indicators that can lead to violent behavior. Click on the hyperlink to access the document. (Spoiler Alert! Nowhere does it say to approach with an armed weapon.)

Just how likely will an armed teacher have any effect on an intruder?

In the shooting of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia the assailant stopped shooting simply because his gun ran out of bullets, not because some individuals had retrieved their guns and confronted him. Ted Besen, the unarmed student who had apprehended the shooter and whom police believed to be the hero of the incident, said, “their guns had no effect on [the shooter.] I already had [the shooter] on the ground before they got their guns out.”  

Life isn’t a Hollywood movie. Those who have barely used a firearm in stressful situations will not be a better shot that trained police officers. The teacher can just as easily run out of bullets as the shooter can.

And what happens if someone is caught in the crossfire?

One armed individual is bad enough, having multiple people shooting at each other is much worse. The crossfire caused by teachers in defense of their students can cause additional losses due to friendly fire. Not every teacher has deadly accuracy. Even trained police officers, on average, hit their intended target less than 20% of the time.After the shooting at Virginia Tech [on April 16, 2007], the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police was concerned “that, had there been a number of people who had been in that classroom with guns, [there could have been] additional persons killed just as a result of poor judgment calls.”Many security professionals agree that there are many survival options for students, faculty, and staff when confronted with an armed attacker that doesn’t involve carrying a gun and firing back.

Bot to mention that there is no element of surprise. If anything just a more aggressive result. If students are made aware that teachers have been armed, regardless if they are even told which ones have been armed, it is very likely that teachers will be the first to be targeted by an intruder. Intruders may also respond by increasing their firepower and by wearing flak jackets such as a bulletproof vest.

Teachers may become “too ready” for an attack. In a recent school year, 2,143 elementary and secondary school students were expelled for bringing or possessing a firearm at school. In how many of those cases could an armed teacher have shot and killed a student due to a perceived threat of danger. Trained officers have shot people they had merely thought were dangerous, while they had truly turned out not to be. And what about fist or knife fights that occur at schools? Should teachers be drawing their guns, ready to shoot while and trying to intervene?

What are we to expect of inner city teachers who have lived in, or currently live in hostile environments. They are more likely to pull the trigger prematurely than those who have grown up with guns in a “positive” environment. Then there is the matter of students that are from cities in which gun violence was a part of their everyday lives. Are we to expect them to be O.K. with guns in their classrooms?

If teachers were armed in order to prepare for an intrusion, they would be forced to keep their guns in their classrooms or on their hips. This would make it easy for any class clown to get a hold of the gun, as well as any student who might decide right then and there that they have simply had enough of their classmates. Even if the teacher had managed to somehow safely and securely lock away the gun,  the time it will take them to finally gain access to their weapon may be too late. The time they will spend trying to enter passwords, or combinations should have and could have been spent on safely evacuating students.

The president of the Utah Education Association, Kim Campbell stated that she “…would be opposed to guns in school, period. No matter where I would put a gun in a classroom, a class full of little people would find it. And if it were locked up for safety, there would be no chance to get it.”

Schools should focus on the safety of their students, but arming the teachers is not the answer. Engage the students in active shooter drills. Make the process of entry more extensive for those who are not employed at the school. Use metal detectors more often. Get more than one officer to watch over the school, especially if the school has multiple buildings.If teachers must be armed, they should be given rubber bullets or tasers instead of the lethal “alternative”.

We are smart enough to know that fighting fire with fire doesn’t work. Let’s be smart enough to realize that the same is true for firearms.