Arming Teachers Is Not the Solution
By Peter C. Anderson, Vol. 21 Student Writer
In the wake of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the country is justifiably horrified at the demonstrated ability of a single disturbed individual to kill so many innocent human beings in a single rampage. People have responded to this in multiple ways, some with the classic “thoughts and prayers,” others with anger towards the FBI for not responding to reported warnings from people who noticed shooter Nikolas Cruz’s dangerous tendencies early on, and still others with calls for more mental health care. President Trump, however, had perhaps the most controversial response, calling for teachers to be armed with guns in order to fight fire with fire, saying that they could have annual training and bonuses to compensate them for this burden.
There are multiple problems with this approach, one being that teachers did not sign up to put their lives on the line in a shootout situation, seeing as marksmanship and criminal justice have nothing to do with teaching and they are certainly not getting paid enough to shoulder that additional psychological and physical burden. They aren’t even getting paid enough to be able to teach, as these teachers often have to buy their own supplies for their classes. This injustice is clearly shown by the closing of every school district in West Virginia recently, where teachers are on strike due to low wages.
As everyone who has been to public school knows, kids are often unruly, which in combination with guns in the classroom, will lead to a constantly dangerous situation. I remember that, as a kid, my friends and I would often mess around with the teacher’s belongings as a joke, for instance, hiding a plastic croissant on the other side of the room and waiting for her to notice (it was French class). This is all in good fun, and such things are a common occurrence in a classroom environment that can often be tedious from the part of the students and, of course, you want to act out to impress your friends. However, it seems obvious that with school being in session for seven or eight hours every day, at some point, a teacher isn’t going to be able to keep their gun entirely secure. Maybe they leave it behind in an unlocked drawer, or it falls onto the floor while the teacher is grading papers. It seems like an inevitability that some students will get their hands on it, and in those situations, fatal accidents would be sure to occur.
Additionally, classrooms can also be inherently tense environments. Teachers may be frustrated at students’ refusal to listen or their systemically neglected paycheck, for instance, and students may be frustrated by the hierarchical social environment or by their grades in certain classes. Teenagers don’t have fully developed brains and may not be able to gauge the seriousness and risks inherent in firearms. This psychological environment for both students and teachers may lead to a situation where tensions are very high, and the student reaches for the gun (which they know teachers carry) or the teacher brandishes or reaches for the gun out of frustration. It seems to me that inserting the ability to inflict deadly force into this high stress environment could create daily fatal potential for danger in hundreds of schools where there usually would not be such a danger. Combined with implicit racial bias present in people as a whole, it would likely also have the impact of exposing people of color to a hostile learning environment.
If arming teachers isn’t the solution, what then? Although many would blame mental health, mental illness is present in only around 14-23% of all incidents of generalized mass murder. However, as of January 17, 2018, 94 out of 96 of these mass shootings were committed by males, most of them white, despite the fact that women have depression at a higher rate than men do. It’s clear that instead of a mental health problem or a not-arming-teachers problem, we have a toxic white supremacist masculinity problem. This is evidenced by a Facebook group chat that the Stoneman Douglas shooter was part of, in which he constantly advocated for the murder of Jews, people of color, gay people, and white women (whom he referred to as “traitors”). He constantly talked about the body armor and guns that he had stockpiled, and the group chat was named “Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great.” If we want to solve this problem, we need to address these hateful ideologies and take away their murder tools, instead of exacerbating the issue by militarizing schools or blaming the mentally ill.