Though President Trump has supported the idea of arming educators to counter threats of mass school shootings, the PPP suggests public support to be the opposite. Specifically, 56 per cent of Americans polled had opposed to giving teachers guns. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of these opponents were those who voted for Hilary Clinton in the Presidential Election (86 per cent). Yet, only 55 per cent of President Trump voters were in support of teachers owning firearms. I strongly believe Education Department should stand strong and not mandate or allow educators to be armed.
Firstly, teachers themselves are against such an idea. A Gallup poll in March this year found that only 7 per cent of teachers are in support of being armed. Even if teachers were in support of such an idea, the demographics of the teaching workforce might prove to reduce the intended effectiveness of such a policy. Based on a recent report from the Pew Research Center, 30 per cent of Americans own a gun. Most of them are disproportionately white, male, over 50 years old, live in rural areas, uneducated and vote for Republicans. In contrast, our teaching work force are mostly female, below 50 years old, primarily live in urban areas, hold bachelor’s degrees, and favor Democrats. Arming all educators, or even 20 per cent as President Trump suggested, will be impractical as the costs of training will be exorbitant. Such training is also likely to be a one-off event, thus we can only say teachers are oriented, and not trained, to use a gun; which is a huge difference when it comes to a crisis.
Instead, much more can be done with the money used to arm teachers. The Student support and Academic Enrichment grant (SSAE), which was part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, was aimed to enhance students’ academic achievements through a well-rounded education and improving school conditions for learning. Granted, the SSAE does not contain language barring the use of funds to buy weapons. However, I am hopeful that the department will utilize these funds in more direct ways to improve school conditions. We could raise benefits for teachers in fields with labor shortages (i.e. special education, math, physical sciences), or providing more digital learning amenities in which students can directly benefit, instead of utilizing the money to arm teachers.
In your point of view, arming teachers may seem to be an improvement of school conditions through the aspect of safety. Yet, having armed teachers does not necessarily equate to students feeling safer. There is no concrete evidence on the presence of armed individuals in a location deterring mass shootings. This was the case in Parkland. The armed school resource deputy waited outside the building as the shooting unfolded. Furthermore, in order to be a deterrence, teachers need to be proficient in handling firearms. Research has shown professional police officers hitting their targets less than 20 per cent of the time in training situations. I am sure armed teachers will have a much lower percentage, and such inaccuracy may result in more casualties. Law enforcement suffered casualties in 46.7 per cent of incidents where they engaged shooters to end the threat. These officers report such high casualty rates despite spending months and years practicing full-time. Teachers with limited training are likely to fare much worse and injure unarmed children during crises.
Also, by arming teachers with firearms, it significantly increases the supply of guns in the country. The root of the problem with such mass shootings is the lack of background checks in purchasing a firearm. We should not be ‘fighting fire with fire’. Instead, we need to be restricting the sales of guns. Research by Boston University in 2013 found that each percentage point increase in gun ownership is correlated with 0.9 per cent rise in firearm homicide rate. Though correlation does not necessarily mean causation, such a statistic is worth investigating further by your department moving forward. On top of that, the risks of physically storing guns in schools would outweigh the benefits to reduce mass shootings. The proliferation of guns in schools could threaten the safety of our public spaces which are currently safe. In 2014, an elementary school teacher discharged her concealed firearm in the faculty restroom. More recently, in March this year, a reserve police officer teaching a public safety class accidentally fired his gun in the classroom and a student was struck in the neck by a bullet fragment. Such mishaps are happening far more frequently than mass shootings. Moreover, allowing teachers to bring home their firearms could increase the possibility of firearms-related incidents outside the classroom. Children may be able to access them, or firearms could be used in a domestic violence situation. Another concern is suicide – in a study of cases between 1980 and 2012 in which teachers discharged a firearm, 63 per cent committed or attempted suicide. Given the unlikelihood of an incident in the first place, such risks arising from educators being armed will outweigh the potential benefit. As mentioned, the benefits that your department is advocating may be an overestimate due to the lack of firearm proficiency. This further reduces the efficacy of such a policy.