If teachers don't want to carry a gun, then don't

AP Photo/Martha Irvine

When it comes to mass shootings in our schools, we’re all trying to find solutions. The problem is that, as a country, we’re s diametrically opposed on just about everything that solutions are hard to find.

For example, allowing teachers who so desire to carry a firearm.

To me, it seems like a no-brainer, pure common sense. After all, if they go through the background check to get a gun in the first place–much less the background check to become a teacher in the first place–then they shouldn’t be a threat to anyone.

Yet there’s a lot of pushback, particularly from educators themselves. It’s weird.

Take this piece from Al Jazeera.  There are a few points I want to talk about briefly, then to the meat of the argument.

While we certainly had lockdown procedures, at that time they felt like a formality rather than a necessity. In 2006 – the year I began my teaching career – there were 11 school shootings, and they all seemed to occur worlds away from my New Jersey classroom. There have so far been 29 school shootings this year, and 118 since 2018, according to Education Week, which tracks school climate and safety.

I think most educators are now bonded by the same fear: It is no longer a question of if a school is rocked by shooting, but when. That leaves me with a burning, seething rage at a small but powerful group of politicians for allowing this travesty to continue unabated.

First, those 29 “school shootings,” are really any shooting that takes place at a school. These are not mass shootings. Despite the doom and gloom, of those 29 shootings, 28 people were killed. That sounds like an awful ratio, and it is, until you remember that 21 of those were at Uvalde–that’s the only properly-defined mass shooting I’ve found on the list.

Others appear to be different matters entirely, such as five people being shot outside a basketball game or a number of others injured gunfight outside of a football stadium. None of these were fatalities and few others appear to have been “school shootings” as most think of them.

Moving on…

I now teach students at the college level. My job is centred on preparing future teachers to take charge of their own classrooms, an experience that culminates in state licensure. This process requires that they develop expertise in content, current theories and methods for effective teaching. Our simulations involve classroom read-alouds, Socratic questioning techniques and debates and discussions about themes in novels.

They do not involve teaching future teachers how to disarm and overtake a school attacker. That should not be the job of teachers. Politicians – not teachers – are the ones who should be losing sleep as they figure out how to solve this crisis. This is why we vote for them; this is why we pay their salaries with our tax dollars.

But congressmen such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump want to arm teachers in their classrooms as the answer to the gun violence epidemic. This interpretation of a teacher’s job responsibilities is nothing more than a way to pass the buck and burden educators with a problem that only our legislators can solve.

They’re trying to solve it. They’re doing so by trying to get it so teachers who wish to do so can carry firearms for their own protection.

No one is trying to say teachers have to carry a firearm, only that they should have that choice because if, God forbid, they’re faced with a school shooter, it would be better to have the means to defend yourself than to cower in your classroom and hope he picks another one.

I live and work in Michigan, a state that oscillates nearly every election cycle between what I call a palatable purplish-blue and a terrifying blood-red political bent. However, in almost a decade here, I have never met one teacher who wants to be armed or who wants their expensive and intensive teacher training to focus on active attacker scenarios over fostering a love of reading, writing and thinking.

And this is the paragraph that gives us a hint at the issue. She just doesn’t like anything Republicans stand for. That includes gun rights.

However, her decade of living in Michigan doesn’t give her insight into what all her fellow teachers think. Education is a profession with a profound liberal bias. That means many who would like to carry a firearm simply wouldn’t tell her they’d like to.

While their colleagues sit around the break room table and gripe about politics, they stay quiet so as to try and maintain as pleasant a workplace environment as they can. They’re not going to advertise to someone like her that they want to carry a gun.

Further, I know a number of teachers who would love to be able to carry a firearm on their person at school. Even if they recognize the odds of there being a school shooting in their school as slim, many also realize that for some school out there, the probability of it happening at their school is one.

Now, what’s the difference between me and the author? Well, while I know fewer educators than she does, they’re not afraid to admit to me they want to carry.

What she needs to remember is that no one is talking about this being mandatory for educators. Not everyone should carry a firearm, particularly if they’re too uncomfortable with it to use it if needed. All we’re advocating for is for teachers to have that option.

Meanwhile, she wants to deny that option to everyone based on her own feelings. If she can’t see how messed up that is, I don’t know what to say.