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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Arming School Teachers: A Bad Idea

     What's easier--turning a law enforcement officer into a school teacher, or converting an educator into a cop? In the wake of the Newtown elementary school mass murder, a few politicians and a handful of education administrators have proposed that the police provide school teachers with firearms training. These teachers, under this proposal, would not be packing heat primarily for self-protection. They would be carrying guns to protect students against armed killers. This responsibility would essentially turn them into peace officers. That's a bad idea because there's a lot more to law enforcement that knowing how to fire a gun. Criminals and homicidal nut cases know how to fire guns. That doesn't make them cops.

     Teaching a person how to shoot a gun more or less accurately is not that difficult. But finding the right person to arm, then training that individual when to use deadly force, requires more than a few shooting lessons. Every year, trained and experienced law enforcement officers shoot unarmed people. If police officers can make use-of-force mistakes, one can only image how many teacher cops would shoot the wrong person. Shoot or don't shoot situations often require spit-second decision-making under extremely difficult circumstances.

      Just being a competent teacher in today's environment of jerk parents and difficult students is tough enough. The added life and death responsibility of protecting kids from armed intruders would turn some of these cops-with-a-gun into mental cases. Empowering teachers who are not allowed to lay a hand on unruly students to blow away armed intruders is a formula for insanity. An insane teacher who is armed to the teeth is not my idea of how to make schools safer.

     Every year, hundreds of gun owners shoot themselves, and people close to them, accidentally. Guns have a way of going off when they're not supposed to. Even trained police officers unintentionally shoot themselves when cleaning their weapons, or when practicing at firing ranges. In law enforcement, they refer to these embarrassing  incidents as accidental discharges. Inside a school building, an accidental discharge could result in the death of a student.  

     Those who propose putting guns into the hands of school teachers haven't said how many educators should be issued weapons. There are about 100,000 schools in the U.S. So if just five teachers in any given school building are armed, that's 500,000 armed teachers. With a half million amateur cops walking around our schools with loaded weapons, these places, still safe havens for children, would become a lot less secure. (Studies have repeatedly shown than children are safer in schools than at home.)

     I would argue that any school teacher willing to volunteer themselves to be the front-line defense against a heavily armed intruder intent on mass murder, should quit teaching and join a SWAT team. Teacher-cops will not only make schools more dangerous, they'll make public education worse than it already is. (I'm also against placing armed security guards into schools. If these people were capable of professional law enforcement work, they would be cops. But at least school guards don't have to protect and teach.)

     Bad ideas--so-called solutions that make the problem worse--often arise in the wake of disasters like the one in Newtown. Arming teachers is a bad idea.

   


1 comment:

  1. How do they manage in Israel then, where teachers of any description are routinely armed?

    you're confusing the lack of social cohesion in american public schools with the practical benefit of defense capacity.

    we should ALL be armed, always. Should scorpions lose their sting, or bears their claws? If firearms were a biological appendage do we castrate ourselves? this is the logical, moral and natural error. human being make tools and this technology is not going away; let us rather learn to use it better for the greatest good.

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