Editor’s Note: In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, people across the country have been debating the arming of teachers in school in order to prevent shootings. MV Media wanted to explore both sides of the issue with teachers at the school, so we invited members of the staff to submit commentaries regarding the pros and cons of providing teachers at school with weapons. The following full commentaries, one for each side, were determined by the editors and staff to be those which address the issue most thoroughly and clearly. Statements from every commentary submitted are included following the complete commentaries as well as an analysis of both sides of the debate based on historical and constitutional evidence by AP U.S. Government teacher Tyson Emborg.
Organized by Madison Paul and Gabe Barnard
Stance: Teachers should not be armed
Science Teacher Heather Riggs
I, like most teachers, chose this profession because I care about kids. Teachers strive to create supportive and nurturing environments for their students. We challenge them, guide them, and try to help them grow into the best possible version of themselves. The notion of also carrying a weapon around to trade gunfire in the classroom simply does not fit. The day that teachers in my building are armed is the day I hand in my resignation. I do not believe for an instant that a gun in a classroom is compatible with a safe and caring learning environment.
I am grateful for Mr. Fleet, and for all SRO’s. They are the ones who should be charged with our safety. Law enforcement officers train continuously throughout their careers to respond to dangerous situations. They are by nature able to enter each encounter with a preparedness and awareness that is completely different from the mindset of a teacher. It is ludicrous to think that a just because a teacher may have some basic gun safety training, they could suddenly take over the role of a highly trained officer. Do you really think that at a moment’s notice a teacher can snap into the mindset necessary to look someone – possibly a student – in the eye and pull the trigger?
And that’s not even addressing the myriad of practical considerations with arming teachers. Who is insuring that the guns are maintained regularly? What happens if a student manages to get a gun away from a teacher? Do parents have a right to know who is carrying? And if the worst should happen, how are the first responders on an active shooter scene supposed to immediately know which guns are in the hand of a perpetrator vs. a teacher?
I just do not understand the mentality that the answer to gun violence is more guns. Just how many guns is it supposed to take to make us safe? By a wide margin, the US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, and yet repeated school shootings seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. The answer is not to add teachers to the ranks of “more good guys with guns” to stop the “bad guys with guns.” It’s time for there to be fewer bad guys with guns. But most importantly, we need to make our schools and our society at large a place where people don’t feel so lost, angry, or broken that they lash out in violence.
Remaining Statements From Commentaries in Opposition of Arming Teachers
“I can say without hesitation that in either role, parent or educator, I am not comfortable with the idea of teachers or school staff carrying firearms in the name of protecting our students. There is the obvious reasoning that the fantasy of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun is statistically refuted time and time again. The facts show that a good guy with a gun is far more likely to accidentally use his/her gun on someone else or themselves or that the gun the good guy is holding will end up in the wrong hands.”
–Social Worker Jennifer Harding
“Should the number of school shootings and deaths be zero? Absolutely. Is arming teachers the right path to get us there? No. First, since the vast majority of American schools will never see a shooting, a “locked and loaded” stance would needlessly increase the tension in students and staff and create a climate where people actually feel less safe. More weapons in schools increases the possibility of accidental discharges and gun-related injury. Certainly most of the armed teachers would be well-trained, careful, and emotionally prepared. And certainly some would not.”
-School Psychologist Michael Christofferson
“The idea of having teachers carry guns to prevent tragedies like the one that just occurred in Florida is ludicrous and students of the enlightenment would see it for what it is, a distraction. Do I want to fire a gun in the middle of a kid filled hallway with adrenaline running high. What if my aim is off and I accidentally shoot an innocent student. As a teacher, Please, just me the supplies I need, the salary I deserve, and the common-sense gun laws to protect my kids. And let me do what I love.”
-Fine Arts teacher Teddy Goldman
Stance: Teachers should be armed
Math Teacher Brett Whitlow
Like many of you, I have been grieved and angry at the gun violence across our nation. The atrocities that happened on Valentine’s day in Florida has broken my heart as a husband, father, teacher, friend and colleague. Like many of you I believe something must be done to protect our students. Schools should be, must be, a safe place to learn.
Out of the movement from Florida the conversation has matured around the idea of how to protect our students at school. One idea that is growing is to allow teachers to carry firearms in order to protect their students and themselves. In these few words to follow I will argue that we, as a nation, should allow teachers to protect their students and themselves with a firearm.
I am in no way naïve, I know that my opinion is not going to be popular in our liberal leaning public education system of today. I have a much more difficult task then my colleague that is writing for the other side. Though I feel I must try. I truly believe lives depend on this.
In many, perhaps all, schools in this nation are teachers, administrators, and coaches who currently own and know how to use a firearm. These teachers are capable and willing to protect students from anyone that would be desiring to deal out harm. I am in no way arguing that ALL teachers MUST carry a firearm. Only those teachers that are able and willing. I believe a teacher should go through additional courses and training to prove that he or she knows how to handle a firearm safely. I believe that individual must practice with the firearm on a regular basis. The teacher must be able to keep the firearm out of sight and away from students.
As a student, parent or fellow teacher, which scenario makes you feel safer? There are many teachers in the building that you know carry and are capable of using a firearm and willing to place themselves between you and the instigator. Or on the entrance of your school is a sticker that says please do not bring a gun into our school. Criminals by definition are people who do not follow laws. The notion that we will be able to fix the current gun violence problem with more laws (that the criminal will NOT follow) is, I believe, naïve.
No additional commentaries arguing for the arming of teachers were submitted.
Historical and Constitutional Analysis
AP U.S. Government Teacher Tyson Emborg
Rights are relative, not absolute. As Justice Jackson explained, the Constitution is not a “suicide pact”. In short, National Rifle Association-backed politicians need to realize that their constituents are not corporations or interest groups, but rather the citizens they are elected to protect. Chief among them are our children.
As a result schools need less, not more, weapons of destruction. We need a ban on assault-style weapons and proposals for other reasonable restrictions to prevent the next school shooting. We do not need to arm school staff as a red herring distracting our political dialogue and leading the public away from addressing real solutions.
While gun manufacturers see record profits, our children are dying in places created for their protection. James Madison, author of the Second Amendment and a framer who understood that rights could not be exercised to their extreme and detrimental end, cautioned in Federalist 10 against those factions “adverse to the rights of other citizens”. And yet today, a handful of politicians are once again strangling the ability of the majority to enact common-sense solutions to save lives. This should never be allowed.
Our elected officials are voted in to offer more than thoughts and prayers. They are elected to safeguard our common good through their collective action. When the absolute exercise of individual liberty threatens our collective security, reasonable limitations are warranted. Students know two wrongs do not make a right. The actions of a school shooter met by the arming of staff will not make America great again. Politicians threatening the repeal of the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act want to give the NRA a political blank-check rather than support the teachers, parents, and especially students who want guns out of our schools.
More legislation and action is needed, not less. Common sense must prevail. Armed staff will not address why an AR-15, or other more-potent weapons created in the future, should be readily available. Armed staff will not address mental health issues or why criminals have slipped past existing laws. Armed staff will not address why a bunt-stock is legal, the prevalence of high-capacity magazines, or why reasonable background checks are not warranted. We need action, not platitudes, and more from our politicians than a thumbs-up while standing among the victims of these horrendous crimes. In short, as Justice Breyer concluded in the United States Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, “there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”
In Support of Arming:
The Second Amendment of our Constitution grants Americans the right to keep and bear arms. This is a fundamental right.
In 2008 Justice Scalia, writing on behalf of the United States Supreme Court, correctly affirmed this individual right in the case District of Columbia v. Heller. In Scalia’s view, the fundamental right to gun ownership should not be subjected to ongoing judicial review or limited when the hot passions or an initial response to crisis champions its removal. This belief has been applied equally to our constitutional rights to free speech and press as well as other provisions and protections. And when impulse has trumped sense America has been led down the wrong path toward the denial of rights. For example, the denial of individual rights of Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor and African-Americans unjust treatment in the Civil Rights-era South.
The right to keep and bear arms is not wishful thinking. The right to keep and bear arms, advocated on the battlefields at Lexington and Concord, is an extension of our natural rights and dates to the Rights of Englishmen our founding fathers fought for through the application of the English Bill of Rights.
In short, this right remains, and should continue, unabridged and undeniable. While the current crisis in our public schools is horrific our response should be focused on common-sense solutions that safeguard rather than threaten individual liberty. We do not need to turn our public schools into miniaturized police-states by either increasing the police presence or by seeking unwarranted restrictions on law-abiding Americans’ ability to exercise their Constitutional rights. Instead, the solution is simple. We need to arm well-qualified staff members. In numerous examples criminals hell-bent on mayhem, if confronted by armed staff, would not have been successful in their sick pursuits. For example, in 1997, at a High School in Hancock County, Mississippi, assistant principal Joel Myrick pulled his pistol and prevented further bloodshed by confronting and quickly stopping a school shooter. Had other schools, such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas been allowed to follow his lead, numerous lives would have been saved and the crisis we find ourselves in avoided.
Arming staff members is the only way to ensure the safety of our students and uphold our sacred values. As Benjamin Franklin warned, those who sacrifice liberty for security gain neither. Let us remember the past and safeguard the future by exercising common sense and preventing the next crisis through this simple, but necessary, solution.