In general, the debate over gun control and the "proper" interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has possibly been one of the most explosive areas of argument in my personal life. I'm only a young twenty-something and I know that I still have a long way to go, but this is the first time in my brief life where I have actually lost and damaged friendships by expressing my opinions on a controversial matter. I have been called stupid, ignorant, idiotic, and treasonous for my words and views. And as per usual in the United States, any opinion must be boiled down into one of two parties, one of two sides of the aisle, one of two opposing sides, one of two political factions at war.
Several days ago, in reaction to the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the principal of my school wrote a letter to all parents and students that laid out our school's safety procedures and priorities. While reading it to my 6th grade class, I did my level best to emphasize to them that their safety and well-being was more important to me than anything else in the world. I stressed to them that I would do anything to keep them safe, and that if we take our safety procedures seriously, the living nightmares that have come crashing into reality in schools across this nation will never, God willing, ever reach us here. With less than a minute left in the class period, a student shot up his hand and quickly asked, "But what if it does?"
I truthfully didn't have the time to answer him in that moment, and I hurriedly replied that he and his classmates needed to move on to their next class. But I truthfully didn't have an answer for him.
What I can't tell my students is just how afraid I am.
One of the solutions that was thrown out at me in a rather frustrated fervor was the presence of even more guns in schools. It was aggressively suggested to me that not only should teachers be armed, but also that armed guards should be regularly posted at schools. (This is a random aside, but I seriously never thought that in America, the schools where we teach and learn would ever have anything in common with military bases, prisons, or war zones.)
My problem with this solution is the terrifying X factor that introducing even more guns into a school can possibly produce. Accidental gun-related injuries and deaths as a result of various forms of mishandling are at the top of my list of concerns. And honestly, other people have spoken on this topic far more eloquently than I have. On Twitter, Mark Popham has written the following:
“Every time another one of these mass shootings happens—right when people start telling us that the answer is more guns, guns for everyone, guns for teachers, guns for students—I think about Chris Kyle. Chris Kyle was the American Sniper guy—a highly decorated Navy Seal sniper with 150 confirmed kills in the Iraq War. Whatever else is true about him, he definitely was very good at shooting guns and used to being in combat environments.
On February 2nd, 2013, Kyle and a friend took a 25 year old Marine veteran to a shooting range, in the hope of helping him with his PTSD. On the way Kyle realized that the guy was dangerous, and texted his friend as such; the friend replied affirmatively. If this was a movie the 25 year old would have freaked out and drawn a weapon, and Kyle would have shot him or shot the gun out of his hand or held him at gunpoint. But it wasn't a movie. What actually happened was a Navy Seal military sniper and his friend were both shot to death with Kyle's own guns. Both of them were armed, and neither had time to even unholster their weapons.
Kyle knew that the man he was with was dangerous. He knew he was armed—he armed him! To the degree that anyone could be forewarned and prepared for a situation, Kyle was. And yet the other guy shot two armed and trained men dead, got in a car and drove away. I can spend the rest of my life at a gun range and not have the facility with firearms that Chris Kyle did. So how the hell is a gun going to help me, or a terrified social studies teacher? Because it doesn't look like it did squat for him.
No amount of training and no gun on your belt is going to let you dodge a bullet or keep it from ripping the life out of you. Every student and teacher at that school could have been trained military personnel with access to weapons and that many people could have still died. We know that because the 2009 Fort Hood shooting—which occurred on a MILITARY BASE—killed 13.
Today a bunch of men are going to go to a gun store and they're going to buy their third or 10th or 25th gun, because this scares them, and they think the gun is going to keep them safe. They're going to be Action Movie Chris Kyle, not Actual Real Life Chris Kyle Who Was Murdered. It’s going to keep on happening. And it’s going to get worse and worse. (https://twitter.com/markpopham/status/964157761427...)
On that same topic, John Windham rather hit the nail on the head regarding the actual reality of the presence of a weapon in the classroom, as well as the after-effects of such a horrific event:
Ok, I am a teacher. I hear shooting. Do I first secure the room and make sure all my kids are safe, or do I leave the room and hunt the shooter? Can you imagine how noncombatant children are going to react when I pull my weapon? What do I do if a child tries to stop me because they don’t like guns—how do I control that situation? Next, if I do get the room secure and get the kids safe, where do I aim my weapon?
Safety on or off? Remember, I have 35 kids that I have to respond to while I am getting my weapon ready to fire. Do I aim at the door, praying that some innocent doesn’t bang on the door? Meanwhile, I'm praying that my kids don’t freak out and start screaming, "Shoot, shoot!!" What if I shoot an innocent? Would it be considered innocent friendly fire, or am I now up for legal charges? Maybe I should aim at the window and pray I don’t shoot at a cop because what I see is a long gun and not the cop.
Maybe I have all this worked out in my head (no CC class on God’s green Earth trains this). So how do I train, qualify, practice? Who pays for this? I've got more questions. Say that I am defending the room, ready to fire while my kids are freaked out (by the way, the kids have no eye or ear protection), and I shoot the bad guy. They get to watch their teacher kill another human. Sure, there will be kids that will see me a hero, those kids are cool. What about the parents and kids that are not cool with my change from teacher to shooter? These are families from my neighborhood, and I will see them everyday. School is extremely social. Children won’t learn from teachers they don’t connect with or admire, so now I have severed relationships.
Now the end of my story goes like this: say my favorite little one comes to school, and in class, pulls a gun. I love this kid--I know the family, I probably taught other members of that family--and now I have to try to shoot and kill this child. What about my mental health? I am going to say, it ain’t easy--this armed teacher thing. We are not combat trained, and we don’t look at our kids as targets I might have to engage in the future. So, do you really want a combat minded person teaching kids?
These are the quotes that have truly guided me on this issue, and they articulate how I feel about it far better than I myself could have done.
Above all, I'm tired, dear readers. I'm exhausted and I'm afraid for my students in this country. Screw politics. Screw the sides of the aisle. All I want is a guarantee that our children can walk into institutions of learning without the fear of never going home again.
Stay safe, friends and readers. Godspeed.