Thomas Zachek is a retired teacher who writes an occasional opinion piece for our local paper. He tends to lean left, and this is evident in his latest offering on arming teachers.
The imagined scenario goes something like this: An assailant enters a school and opens fire, whereupon a trained teacher rushes to the scene, draws the trusty side arm he has been carrying daily - oiled, loaded and ready to go, just waiting for this opportunity - and takes out the shooter before the assailant hurts more kids or staff. The teacher becomes a hero.
Maybe. But I can imagine some more likely scenarios.
On teachers being armed in class:
I can imagine some students or parents being really uncomfortable at that prospect. It's also easy to imagine a determined student waiting for the right moment and making a grab for that gun.Considering the lack of appropriate discipline in schools today (and we hear and read plenty of news regarding students assaulting teachers, don’t we?), this is a valid point. The solution is what I call ‘trickle-down cause and effect’: students are made aware that discipline will follow unruliness; teachers must be willing and able to discipline their charges; school administrators must be willing and able to back their teachers up in their disciplinary actions; school boards must be willing and able to back their school administrators up; parents must be made aware that schools will discipline students for unruly behavior.
Consider a 5-foot-2-inch woman teaching high school classes of 30-plus students, including athletes over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds. How likely would it be for some of them to decide they want that gun? A few catch her off guard and overpower her, and after a moment searching the purse or desk, they have the weapon.
And I’m not talking about things like ‘zero-tolerance policies’ – these have proven to be a joke, considering there are school districts suspending elementary school kids for drawing pictures of guns, having toys for show-and-tell which include a depiction of a gun, and for making a ‘fist-gun’, pointing at another student, and saying, ‘pew, pew, pew!’
We know that police officers and soldiers experienced in tense shootout situations can miss at close range. Are we sure that a trained but inexperienced teacher in his first encounter will be cool and steady? If he tries to shoot in a crowded gym or auditorium or even hallway, innocent bystanders could be hurt. The difference between a shot fired on target and a shot six inches off could mean the difference between heroic accolades and a ruined career. Who wants to take that chance? Most teachers I know don't.Most people who are ‘trained’ in self-defense with lethal force are also trained not to shoot in crowds, to scan their backdrops for innocent bystanders, and the like. Gun-owners, when they’re trained properly, know these things, and are careful; one of the first things I learned when it came to guns was one, always assume the gun is loaded, and two, to never point it at anything you’re not willing to shoot.
At best, a trained employee might stop a shooter after the fourth or fifth shot. The real question is: How do we stop him before he fires the first shot?Fourth or fifth shot by whom? The assailant? The ‘trained employee’? If the shooter gets off that many shots, he or she will get off plenty more before anyone armed arrives to put a stop to it; and armed employee might very well make a difference between five shots off and thirty-five.
Something else which not many people know (since the major news networks aren’t mentioning it, it seems): the Oregon mall shooting was stopped by an armed citizen who drew his gun but never fired a shot.
As to this perhaps being directed at the employee, here are four instances where non-police stopped armed assailants with extremely low body counts (five total in the list if you include the off-duty cop).All those things Mr. Zachek mentioned are little more than pouring cups of water on a brushfire – you need a hose to put it out. You can target bullies, make classes smaller, hire truckloads of shrinks and social workers, and it’s not going to help unless and until schools start disciplining their students properly.
We need to target bullying, ensure small classes and not cut school psychologists and social workers. We need courts that don't merely return abusive parents back to their children's homes.
As to whether teachers ought to be armed, my opinion is that it’s not the fact that teachers are armed which will make the difference, but the assumption that one or more of them is armed which will make the greatest impact. Tear down those stupid ‘gun-free zone’ signs and let the school boards tell the people that they will not longer require teachers, administrators, and other school employees be disarmed while they’re at work; let them say that there may be teachers who are trained in the use of firearms and who are carrying concealed while on school property.
The threat alone of armed resistance ought to curb all but the most lunatic of lunatics from setting foot in a school building with mayhem on their mind.
Best of all, nobody in the school would have to be armed – it’s the thought that counts.