Arm Teachers With Pencils, Not Guns

13 dead at Columbine. 26 dead at Sandy Hook. 32 dead at Virginia Tech. And now 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Following the Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida this past February, the Trump administration proposed arming teachers with guns as a way to prevent future school shootings.

As students continue to be shot in the hallways of a place meant for learning, Americans are in agreement that something needs to be done. But the answer is never more guns.

Even with prior training, no teacher should be permitted to carry a firearm in a school as a means of protecting themselves and their students from school shootings. Since the sale or purchase of handguns in Washington, D.C. is prohibited and D.C.’s gun laws are already among the most strict in the country, there has been little call to arm teachers within D.C. Instead, D.C. schools should focus on the mental health of students and ensure children always feel like they have a strong support system at school.

Since Columbine in 1999, there has been an average of ten school shootings per year. In 2018, there have already been 23 school shootings, making it the highest number of school shootings for any year since the Columbine shooting, according to the Washington Post.

If teachers were armed in an effort to lower this frightening statistic, schools would face an increased risk of accidental shootings. If under attack, a teacher could accidentally shoot an innocent student when trying to stop a shooter in a line of fire.

Even with training, firing a gun in any stressful situation affects shooting accuracy. The average hit rate during firefight for the New York Police Department’s firearm training was just 18 percent, said a 2008 RAND Corporation study evaluating the department between 1998 and 2006. If the police are unable to accurately shoot their targets one hundred percent of the time, it is unlikely that a teacher would be able to either.

Many pro-gun lobbyists argue that arming teachers would be a preventative measure that would stop a shooter from planning an attack if they knew that they would be instantly met with more firepower. Although teachers would be able to respond quickly and not have to wait for reinforcements, students would be forced to learn in a hostile environment and feel as if they were surrounded by guards in a prison, not in a school.  

Instead of arming teachers, schools should address mental-health issues and provide students with counselors, social workers and psychologists who they can turn to when faced with adversity.

98 percent of school shooters experienced a major loss in their life and 78 percent of shooters had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts prior to the attack, said a Safe Schools Initiative report from 1974 to 2000 from the Department of Education and Secret Service.

Since many pro-gun advocates argue that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, focusing on mental health would help students process their emotions instead of allowing their anger to fester and surface in violent ways.

Schools need staff members who can support all students in their early development and throughout their high school years, but sadly 1.6 million U.S. students attend a school that employs a law enforcement officer but not a school counselor, according to a 2013-14 federal data collection.

If Americans want to find a way to keep bullets from killing school children, the answer is not to bring in a gun before a shooter does. By focusing on a student’s mental health and ensuring students feel supported through hard times, schools can prevent future attacks.

Teachers should inspire a new generation and shed light, not pack heat.

By: Annalise Myre