January 28, 2013

Our View: Arming teachers wrong response to gun violence

Putting guns in schools, possibly in untrained hands, would expose students to danger.

A constant in the post-Newtown discussion of gun violence in America is the notion that every idea should be on the table. President Obama and others have argued that this is a complex problem and it should be examined from many angles.

click image to enlarge

Cori Sorensen, a fourth-grade teacher from Highland Elementary School in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers last month.

2012 file photo/The Associated Press

Some advocate gun control, others better mental health care, others restrictions of violent video games, and some say we need better school security. All these approaches deserve discussion, and many of them could be combined in a strategy that would make kids safer. But there's one idea that doesn't belong on the table. Arming teachers.

If gun rights activists want to be taken seriously, they should acknowledge what a dangerous idea this is and work constructively to make schools safer.

Such a bill is now before the Maine Legislature. State Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, offers teachers the option of bringing a gun to school with the approval of their school board.

The bill would require the teachers to complete a firearms training course and a psychological exam. Parents would not be told the identity of the armed teacher, but they would be told that there was a gun in the school.

Burns' bill is an attempt to make the schools more safe for students, particularly those in schools in rural areas that may have to wait a long time when they call a police officer.

But however well-intentioned, this is a stunningly bad idea and one that should not be part of Maine's response to Newtown.

A gun safety course and good aim are not enough to prepare someone for a once-in-a-lifetime gunfight in a crowded school full of vulnerable students. Police and military personnel train strenuously to prepare for these situations, and even they sometimes make a mistake.

Even National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre did not call for arming teachers in his tone-deaf response to the Newtown massacre. He called for armed professional guards or police resource officers in every school. He did not expect teachers to add tactical combat training to their already full schedule of duties.

The slight chance that an armed teacher might be able to gun down the extremely rare school shooter hardly seems worth the risk that would come from putting potentially hundreds of guns in the hands of amateur soldiers in schools over the state.

The answer to school shooting is not more guns in schools. Efforts should be focused on stopping violence, not adding to it.

 

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