After recent events in Florida, people are starting to throw around the idea of arming teachers. As both an honorably discharged member of the Army Reserves and a college instructor, I will say this idea won’t work. Even worse, it will end up leading to catastrophes. There is some validity to arming teachers. That’s not the problem. The problem is that this is being viewed by some, and may likely be legislated, as an easy solution to the problem. Arming teachers, if it happens, will end up failing due to improper implementation.
THE TWO MINDSETS
Using a firearm, particularly in a panic situation that may require killing or harming another person, takes a totally different mindset than teaching. The idea that a teacher can simply flip the switch, from compassionate teacher to trained warrior, at a moment’s notice is foolish. Simply giving a teacher a gun won’t help, because the average teacher would freeze if the situation arose where action was demanded. Using a gun to defend takes training—extensive training. The training would likely be expensive and ongoing. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of schools without textbooks or heat. So, where is the money going to come for this expensive training?
A GUN IS A GUN
Arming teachers puts guns into the school. Could a teacher’s gun end up being used against that teacher? Or, against other students? Could a teacher be stripped of a gun by a violent student?
Teaching requires an immense amount of focus—enough focus that a teacher would lose focus on the gun they are carrying. It’s simply impossible to teach (at least properly) and remain a vigilant warrior simultaneously. Until the switch to vigilant warrior has been turned on, that teacher’s gun is vulnerable. If violence happens, the teacher with the gun may become the target—the main point of attack for a perpetrator!
DO COMBAT SOLDIERS SHOOT TO KILL?
There have been some experts that suggest that combat soldiers—people highly trained to handle a weapon and take a life—often deliberately overshoot when placed in combat. This is likely particularly true with their first experience in combat. The debate on this is controversial, so you can do your own research, but it does raise doubts about a teacher’s ability to fire, especially during their first round of combat.
Combat. Let’s just be honest. When a shooter enters a school property, that premise has now become a combat zone. But, it’s a different kind of combat zone. When a soldier is sent to war, they know they are in a combat zone. It becomes a part of their psyche, constantly in the back of their mind. A teacher doesn’t drive to work expecting combat. Their psyche isn’t in that place, and this may make them less prepared to enter combat.
IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?
Instead of arming teachers, a more viable solution may simply be putting a few armed guards (whether police or military) on school grounds. Being a vigilant defender means coming to work with that mindset. It’s not a switch that can easily be flipped. The switch already needs to be on when a crisis arises.
Even military personnel and police would need significant training—not near the training a teacher would require—but still significant training.
Arming teachers may be part of the solution, but it isn’t the easy solution some people paint it to be. An armed teacher may be a deterrent; but, can an armed teacher become a defender in a crisis situation quickly enough to either eradicate or minimize casualties? Not necessarily. It would take someone with the right psychological makeup combined with intense and ongoing training. Without proper training, the average teacher with a gun would freeze at the moment of crisis.