The following is a column I wrote for the September 17, 2014 edition of the Journal. In light of the renewed interest in the idea of arming teachers, I humbly re-submit my thoughts on the subject:
In addition to being gifted educators, the amazing teachers in the Southern Boone school district are also compassionate nurturers. No finer example of this can be found than in the kindergarten hallway at the primary school. Treating their students with tenderness, patience, and love, it is not surprising that many kids mistakenly address them as “Mom” nearly every single day. Our teachers are 100% focused on educating and nurturing our children, and we are lucky to have them employed in our district.
Last week, Missouri lawmakers voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in school. The measure mandates that teachers who wish to be armed must be trained and certified to carry, and they must have their weapons under their personal control at all times.
Training is undeniably important, so let’s instead examine what it means for a teacher to have a gun under their personal control at all times. A gun left in a teacher’s purse or desk would not be under his or her personal control. Therefore, the only way to maintain personal control is for a teacher to carry a loaded gun on his or her person at all times. In kindergarten, teachers receive approximately five thousand hugs a day from their kiddos. I exaggerate, but imagine being hugged numerous times throughout each school day— often without warning—by enthusiastic five-year old kids. Now imagine one of them accidently grabbing a loaded pistol hidden under a teacher’s blazer. Odds are that a teacher’s gun would be securely strapped into a holster with the safety on. But imagine if it isn’t. It is not hard to imagine that over the course of a school day, a holster strap can be unsnapped on accident. A safety could be flicked off. A child could be dead.
A more plausible scenario would take place in a high school, where most school shootings occur. Imagine what a deranged teenager bent on killing his classmates might do when a teacher turns to write on the Smartboard and the student spots a 9mm hiding under his teacher’s sport coat. Is it so difficult to imagine that a kid could make a grab for the gun while his teacher’s back is turned?
I can hear proponents of arming teachers scoff at my wild imagination. They will say that an armed teacher will be properly trained in keeping his or her weapon secured. Very well, but the only way to be 100% certain that a loaded weapon will remain secured around so many children would be for the teacher to focus 100% of his or her attention on keeping it that way. An armed teacher cannot let down her guard for a single second. Therefore, there will be no more hugs, children. If you hug your “Mom,” I mean teacher, and touch her gun: you will be expelled from school. Zero tolerance, you know. Also, as anyone in law enforcement will tell you, a person who is trained to carry a gun must be 100% ready and willing to fire it when the time comes to do so. To hesitate is to die. An armed teacher cannot be 100% ready and willing to shoot someone, 100% focused on keeping his or her gun out of his students’ hands, AND 100% focused on educating and nurturing his students all at the same time. It’s not possible. This is why armed police officers and soldiers are not teachers.
A teacher dividing his attention between keeping his weapon secure, being ready to use said weapon at any given time, and giving his students the instruction and attention they deserve will come up short in one or more of these areas. Either his students—our children—will receive a lower-quality education, or they will be endangered by the presence of a loaded gun in the classroom. School resource officers are the solution to security challenges, not gun-toting teachers.
I submit to you, our local school board, and our state legislature, that teachers should remain focused on educating and nurturing our kids, not on carrying weapons and killing people.