My local paper asked a question to the man in the street last week. "How do you feel about teachers carrying guns in school?" The majority of respondents thought it was a good idea. Of course, I live in central Texas, so I don't know if this reflects on the nation as a whole.
After you read my diary below, think about the scenarios where teachers packing heat in schools could occur.
The day two enabled and deranged young people shot up Columbine high school I was teaching in Colorado Springs, CO just an hour down the freeway. I was between a 7th grade English class and an 8th grade science class at a middle school when I heard the first news. It was like being punched in the gut and hit over the head at the same time.
As the reports kept coming in we learned more about what happened including how many were killed and wounded. When I got home that evening I watched the unfolding story on the Denver television stations. I can’t begin to tell you how cold and eviscerated I felt when I learned that one of the victims was a teacher. The teacher bled out after being shot while trying to protect his students. The question immediately became, "Would I be so brave?"
Next day we teachers at school were asking that question amongst ourselves. The overwhelming response was, "Yes". We would do what we could to protect our students. After all, when they were in our classrooms they were our children. Later that day, I discovered that one of my students’ cousins was one of the victims at Columbine. Also, the son of one of my wife’s colleagues was present, but escaped unharmed. That was too close for me.
This week our paper ran its question to the residents. It asked what people thought about teachers carrying guns in school. A chilling number said that would be O.K. That response spoke volumes to me about the mentality of our community and our country: We will ask our school teachers to be armed like a park ranger, a policeman, even a private citizen. Good for us.
Well, we have not yet become an armed camp here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but here in Texas we sure want it to be that way. I have written a couple columns about fear and it is clear that we fear each other so much that we all must be armed to defend ourselves against the one-in-a-million event of some crazy, demented, sociopath who had easy access to a gun or guns.
Just the other day in Poway, CA just outside San Diego, some crazy guy hopped the fence of an elementary school mumbling about the President and started popping rounds injuring two children. What if the teacher in the playground had been packing heat? Would she/he have drawn down on this guy and shot him dead? Or would he/she missed, and hit the kid across the school yard, or the old lady across the street, or the mailman walking his beat?
How much gun training would our taxpayers be willing to cough up to ensure that our teachers knew how to react and respond in a life-threatening situation where guns are present? The country spends millions on police and military personnel to do just that. Why should our teachers become combatants in this society? They have plenty to do teaching and nurturing our children, don’t they?
This writer is so fed up with this pre-occupation with violence and firearms that I can hardly speak. But speak I will. The United States experiences more deaths by gun, per capita, than any other "civilized" nation. There are those who will parse statistics from this or that agency denying that, but we still kill between 10,000 and 12,000 of our citizens with guns.
Arming teachers provides both a deterrent and a temptation. Children who are violence prone might try to disarm a teacher who is physically less capable than they are. Then what? In my small Texas town we may not have that big a worry, but what about armed teachers in large schools in inner cities where drugs and violence are normal to the daily experience? What about a teacher who feels cornered and threatened by a troublesome student or students? Is she/he going to start popping off rounds defending her/him self?
One of the biggest deterrents to learning is fear. A child who is afraid or who lives/works in a fearful environment learns nothing except how to protect him/her self. Is that what we send our children to school for?