Following the mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College in early October, President Barack Obama said, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it … We have become numb to this.”
As if on cue, two more college shootings occurred eight days later – one at Northern Arizona University and the other at Texas Southern University, each resulting in one death.
The Twitter responses from politicians seeking the Republican presidential nomination were predictable.
“Praying for Umpqua Community College, the victims, and families impacted by this senseless tragedy,” tweeted Jeb Bush.
“My prayers are with everyone in Oregon,” echoed Mike Huckabee. “May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts.”
“The thoughts and prayers of Ohioans go out to the families & victims of the tragic shooting in Oregon today,” added John Kasich.
Candidate Ben Carson, meanwhile, had a different take: “If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere, [I] would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon.”
And if that person were a teacher?
“If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t.”
Donald Trump likewise proclaimed, “Let me tell you, if you had a couple teachers with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.”
Rand Paul was way ahead of both Carson and Trump, stating after the 2013 Sandy Hook tragedy, “If my kids were at that school, I would have preferred that the teacher had concealed-carry and had a gun in her desk. Is it perfect? No. Would they always get the killer? No. Would an accident sometimes happen in a melee? Maybe. But nobody (at Sandy Hook) had any defense, and he just kept shooting until he was tired and he decided to shoot himself.”
Rand, Trump and Carson are backed by gun advocates such as Jenn Jacques, who asserts that “we must stand up and tell our representatives that we need our schools to be policed by law-abiding citizens – parents, teachers, and school officials willing to conceal-carry for our children’s protection. Whether it’s on the elementary school playground or on a college campus, our students’ lives deserve to be protected. By any means necessary.”
Never mind that “88 percent of Americans — including 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans — favor expanding background checks,” according to a Pew Research Center poll.
Forget that “85 percent of Democrats favor [the] creation of a database for the federal government to track gun sales,” according to the same poll, and that even a majority of Republicans – 55 percent – support that same idea.
Any restriction on gun sales or expansion of screening programs is repeatedly rebuffed by a very loud minority of gun advocates.
“In our system of government, with its many veto points, a vocal minority will always beat a passive majority. Only a very small percentage of Americans consider gun control a major priority when considering how they’ll vote,” explains a Slate article. “The people who do strongly factor guns into their calculations are those who fear the government taking their guns away. When gun-control legislation is introduced on the federal level, gun rights activists, and organizations like the National Rifle Association, successfully mobilize to pressure lawmakers into stopping it.”
Thus, it logically follows that many of the solutions for mass shootings – especially when they happen on school grounds – ironically involve more guns carried by law-abiding authority figures like teachers.
How refreshing! Teachers can’t be trusted to join the conversation about school reform, but at least we can be relied upon to pack heat in school hallways and on busy playgrounds!
Except that I don’t want to “conceal carry” on the job. And many law-enforcement and security organizations don’t want me to, either.
“Members of the police have voiced their reservations about arming teachers,” reports the Center for Homicide Research. “Texas police brought up the potential for teachers to leave a gun where a student could retrieve and use it. They are further concerned that if every teacher had a gun, there would be an unnecessarily large number of guns in schools (even including elementary schools). This large number of guns could lead to accidental shootings, especially those involving younger children who do not understand what guns do.”
Similarly, one private firm, National School Safety and Security Services, says “it is short-sighted for those supporting the idea to believe that educators who enter a profession to teach and serve a supportive, nurturing role with children could abruptly kick into the mindset to kill someone in a second’s notice.”
Teachers themselves are overwhelmingly against the idea, too. In Connecticut, “more than three quarters (77 percent) are against plans to arm teachers,” while “72.4 percent of teachers (nationwide) would not likely bring a firearm to school, if allowed.”
I know I won’t be bringing a gun to school any time soon. But I get the idea. Since I first entered the classroom 25 years ago, I’ve evolved from a plain old English teacher into a social worker-standardized test tutor-surrogate parent-English teacher. Now, many politicians want me to become a gun-toting, Wild West sheriff.
I wish that once – just once – our leaders didn’t look at schools and their teachers as the cure for society’s ills. Especially when those ills involve a gun-obsessed culture.
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
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