Arming Teachers is Fantasy, Not Policy

Having “20% of your teaching force” trained and armed with concealed weapons is not a serious policy proposal but a talking point written by the NRA and dutifully recited by President Trump — the man the NRA spent $30 million electing.  Arming teachers to stop gun violence sounds plausible only to those who so devoutly want to believe that more guns are the answer to gun violence that they will ignore reality. To understand why the idea is pure fantasy rather than serious policy, please consider what would happen if a shooter burst into a classroom after Trump’s “arm the teachers” proposal had been fully implemented.

First, there is an 80% chance that the teacher in the classroom would not be armed (since only 20% are armed). In those cases, the shooter then proceeds to shoot the teacher first (just to make sure he/she is not one of the 20%) and then methodically murder every child in the classroom before moving on to another classroom, thereby taking another 1-in-5 chance that a teacher could be armed. They would inflict maximum carnage in each classroom rather than wandering the halls since each move entails facing that 1-in-5 risk of encountering an armed teacher. While the NRA would like us to believe that another, armed teacher would intervene, that won’t happen since it would require the armed teacher to abandon his/her own classroom, leaving all of the terrified students completely unprotected and without any adult guidance. Every armed teacher would need to think about questions such as what if there are multiple shooters? What if the shooter kills the teacher and then takes vengeance on the students in that teacher’s classroom? What would parents say when they learned that the trained and armed teacher responsible for their children’s safety simply abandoned them?

Second, if the teacher in the classroom chosen by the shooter is one of the trained and armed 20%, it would boil down to a contest of who could shoot first – a teacher with a concealed handgun or a shooter who bursts into the classroom holding a semiautomatic (or even automatic, given the continued availability of bump stocks) weapon held at the ready and already aimed at the teacher. Remember, this is real life and not the movies; the odds of someone pulling out a concealed handgun, disengaging the safety, firing and hitting the shooter faster than the intruder could squeeze off rounds from an AR-15 already held at the read is virtually zero.  In most schools, the shooter could simply fire through glass in the door to kill the teacher before the victim knew an attack was about to happen.

Third, since the most common school shooter is a current or former student, the odds are very high that the shooter will know which teachers are armed even before entering the school. As anyone who has spent time around undercover or plainclothes police knows, “concealed” weapons are only concealed in the sense that they are not obvious. Anyone with even a bit of knowledge (easily gleaned from the Internet) would recognize the tell-tale bulges around ankles, under suit jackets or near the waistband.  Children are naturally curious, particularly with respect to scary or forbidden things such as guns.  Students also spend time with teachers every day. They see them stand up, sit down, reach for objects and bend over countless times. In lower grades, the teacher likely squats, kneels or sits on the ground with young students.  In the upper grades, teacher move among their students.  With hundreds of pairs of curious eyes and a typical gossip network, within a week of school starting every student would know exactly which teachers are armed.

Fourth, knowledge that some teachers are armed will make every teacher a target. Even if an armed intruder believes that he/she (although it always seems to be ‘he’) knows which teachers are armed, the obvious course of action for aspiring mass murderers will be to shoot the teacher first. Remember, President Trump is only going to give bonuses to those teachers who carry weapons. All other teachers will, in effect, become target #1 without any compensation or training.

Fifth try to imagine the warped psychology of an intending mass murderer contemplating committing an atrocity at a school. From what we have learned after the fact, these individuals tend to be isolated and angry, but more importantly they believe that the act of mass murder will prove some type of point. Most expect to die. Will knowing that some teachers are armed deter such an individual or only serve to excite and thus further motivate violence? Knowing some teachers are armed may cause an intending mass murderer to modify tactics (just as the Florida shooter took steps to distract the police officer at the school by pulling the fire alarm), but knowledge that armed individuals are present will not reliably deter an attacker.

Sixth, and last, think about mass shootings in America. The Law Vegas massacre did not occur in a school. Neither did the San Bernardino attack, nor the Colorado Springs, the Southerland Springs, Texas, church shooting, the Charleston church shooting, the Aurora cinema shooting or countless others. Trump’s proposal does nothing to deter the majority of mass shootings in America. Even beyond that, there were armed and trained people present at many of those shootings, including San Berdardino, Colorado Springs, Law Vegas and others. Their presence did not deter or prevent the shooting.  Remember, President Reagan was surrounded by a half dozen or more of some of the most highly trained and dedicated weapons experts there are — Secret Service Agents.  Nonetheless, he was shot by a deranged, untrained youth.

President Trump’s proposal for arming 20% of teacher with concealed weapons is not a policy proposal; it is a talking point dreamed up by the NRA and recited verbatim by politicians that the NRA – and their backers in the arms industry dreaming of profits from classroom sales – have bought and paid for.

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