This week, we received the information that a student at the high school where I teach was posting messages on Facebook about feelings of depression and wanting to hurt people at the school. The administration and local police jumped into action immediately. Around the nation, many similar incidents have been reported since last Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But is arming school staff the answer to this violence?
Friday morning, the National Rifle Association (NRA), after a week-long silence, gave its answer: their proposed solution to reduce mass shootings like the one in Newtown is to put armed guards in every school in America. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” stated Wayne LaPierre. Incredibly he didn’t mention background checks, assault weapons, or the need to end gun trafficking.
In the last few days, several other prominent voices, including former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett and Representative Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, have argued that such incidents could be prevented if teachers and principals carried weapons. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell agree, while legislators in Oklahoma are planning to introduce a law that would let school staff members arm themselves.
Listening to various radio talk shows this week, I’ve heard repeatedly the notion that gun-free zones like schools should be banned because they are a target for gun-loving criminals.
I vehemently disagree. The answer to guns is not more guns.
That’s exactly what Michigan Governor Rick Snyder decided on Tuesday, when he vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons in college campuses and other places where they are currently off-limits. In a statement, Snyder said:
“While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security,” the Republican governor said in a statement announcing the veto. “These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so.”
He has plenty of support: Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling broke with his fellow Republican, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, this week by opposing the possibility of arming teachers, principals and other staff at schools.
From Education Week:
“Permitting firearms in schools—visible or concealed—enables a dangerous set of circumstances that can result in similar tragic outcomes,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT-Michigan President David Hecker wrote to Gov. Snyder on Dec. 16. “We should be doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.”
This is a no-brainer: if someone gave me a gun to carry in my classroom, I would be a danger to myself and my students.
Right now, states have a wide variety of laws governing who can bring firearms onto school grounds, and when they can do so. 42 states and the District of Columbia prohibit even those holding concealed-weapons permits or licenses from bringing guns onto school grounds, according to a survey by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
By contrast, New Hampshire has no law “prohibiting people who are not pupils from possessing firearms in a school zone.” In Connecticut, carrying a gun on public school grounds is a felony, although exceptions may be made for security guards and law-enforcement officers.
In other words, gun legislation in general is a mess, and particularly so around schools.
But the solution is not to arm teachers and principals with guns. And there are signs that the country’s mood is changing.
Thousands of people have signed online petitions demanding stricter gun control, including this Care2 petition. President Obama has launched a Task Force to create specific recommendations for Congress on the issue of gun control by January, and Senator Diane Feinstein has pledged to introduce new gun-control legislation at the beginning of next year’s congressional session. Too bad that it took this tragedy to bring about some action.
The job of a teacher is to teach, and if school security needs to be beefed up, that’s the job of trained security officers. Teachers should not carry guns.
What do you think?
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