Local column: Before we arm teachers…

Armed teachers won’t turn into Clint Eastwood or police officers, even with training, writes Dawn Anderson.

Americans have much to be concerned about with the continuing threat of mass shootings in schools. Among those worries is the ill-conceived idea of arming teachers.

President Trump, the NRA and various other gun rights factions have been very vocal, claiming that schools need to be “hardened,” a catchy new term disseminated by the NRA, and unfortunate, as it implies militaristic fortresses where children must now go to learn.

Given everything that could go wrong in a shooting incident, Idaho school districts ought to think long and hard before arming their teachers.

Let’s imagine that someone enters school premises and begins shooting. The advocates of arming teachers imagine some heroic Clint Eastwood moment, in which a teacher calmly takes down the attacker with a single shot.

That’s an incredibly optimistic scenario in a few minutes of confusion and chaos. For one thing, the teacher is likely to be outgunned by an attacker carrying a semi-automatic weapon. Unless teachers carry similar weaponry, they will surely be overwhelmed by someone who has been stock-piling guns and preparing to die in a mad rampage.

Let’s say the teacher is able to react like a well-trained soldier and get off a shot or two. She had better be sure of her aim, since many panicky students will be running toward her. This is what kids are trained to do in fire and lock-down drills—find the authority figure and follow directions on what to do next.

So, what kind of collateral damage are we willing to risk in the unlikely event that a teacher can manage shelter protocols while simultaneously firing over the heads of screaming kids? Schools would have to chance the accidental shooting of nearby children to take out the bad guy. Could a teacher who has shot an innocent student—even in the service of saving others—ever teach in that school again?

Assuming that students would not be running helter-skelter in response to gunfire, could an armed teacher bring down the assailant if the way were clear? Possibly. But even trained police officers who log hundreds of hours of shooting drills only have an 18 percent to 28 percent accuracy in gunfire exchanges.

“Defending children is a must,” says former Army Sergeant and infantry team leader Matt Martin, “but putting a firearm in the hands of even the most trained teacher isn’t the answer.”

Wounded twice in Afghanistan, Martin received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and two Purple Hearts.

In an op-ed piece for Charlottefive.com, Martin recalled what real combat is like: “Few people actually run towards gunfire. Most search for cover. Some can’t function. Fight or flight. Adrenaline floods your body. Time doesn’t exist. Your heart beats outside of your chest. Fine motor skills stop working. People urinate and defecate themselves. Good luck holding steady aim at a moving target. Even the simplest of tasks, such as reloading can become difficult.”

In 2015, the Violence Policy Center analyzed a survey by the FBI and National Crime Victimization. They concluded that firearms are seldom used to stop a bad guy. For every one justifiable gun death, there are 34 homicides and 78 suicides, according to the data. “When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.”

State governments and local districts had better be prepared to answer the numerous questions that arise from the decision to arm teachers. The possible deadly outcomes for such a move are among the reasons most teachers are against it.


Dawn Anderson teaches writing and critical thinking at a local alternative high school.


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