Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said during an interview on Feb. 15 that there should be consideration for training and arming teachers in the event of a school shooting. Following her remarks, The Hill reported that Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) rebuked DeVos’ suggestion. In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” The Hill reported that Murphy said, “There’s zero evidence, empirical or anecdotal, that more guns leads to less gun crime.” Likewise, the National Education Association released a statement on Feb. 21 denouncing the idea. The United Federation of Teachers firmly rejected arming teachers in a statement that NBC New York reported on Feb. 22. I agree that arming teachers will not resolve the epidemic of school shootings that plagues the United States. Even if the shootings decline, there are dangers in allowing firearms into classrooms. Rather than shifting attention by offering harmful solutions, we must focus on practical approaches to combating gun violence. These strategies include pushing for legislation requiring universal checks for those purchasing guns and banning high-capacity magazines.
Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla., gun control conversations re-entered political discourse. President Donald Trump reaffirmed on Feb. 21 that arming teachers would end school shootings. According to The Guardian, Trump said, “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.” The lack of logic employed by DeVos and Trump is staggering. Firstly, a study by John J. Donohue, a Stanford Law School professor, indicates that “states that have enacted so-called right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws have experienced higher rates of violent crime than states that did not adopt those laws.” Newsweek, who discussed the study, added that Donohue looked at data from 1977 to 2014, and was unable to find definitive evidence that crimes decreased in areas where more people carried guns. More so, NBC News reported that Daniel Webster, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, made the same argument that “the number of incidents of aggravated assault grows” when states allow citizens greater access.
Secondly, even if teachers are trained to use guns, there is no guarantee that their abilities will not be hindered in high-stress situations. After Trump said on Feb. 21 that marines could be “spread evenly throughout the school,” veterans found fault in his argument. According to The Guardian, Jay Kirell, a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, posted a tweet on his Twitter account saying, “Cops & soldiers literally get paid to do this & most of them can’t shoot accurately under stress.” Trump and DeVos’ narrow perception that the safety of students relies on gun access for educators overlooks the reality that other countries have limited access to firearms, and do not have the same high degree of gun violence overall or in schools.
This is not the first time that politicians called for guns in schools following a shooting. After the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Newsweek stated that executive director of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, said that guns in schools, not legislation, will stop mass shootings. It is clear that LaPierre’s true motive is to sell more guns, not to protect children who are seeking an education. If we want to effectively protect people in ways that were proven effective in other countries, we should implement the aforementioned universal checks and ban high-capacity magazines.
In October 2017, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Strip shooting, The New York Times published the article, “How to Reduce Mass Shooting Deaths? Experts Rank Gun Laws.” Among measures that experts indicated could potentially prevent mass shootings — though they acknowledged the unpredictability of mass shootings — was “outlawing large-capacity ammunition magazines that enable rapid fire.” Likewise, they suggested universal checks as a potential measure that could lessen the shootings. Each measure had 62 percent and 89 percent public support, respectively. Also, when ranked on a 1-10 effective scale as 6.8 and 6.6, the statistics were within the top five highest rates. So, rather than focusing on the goals of gun supporters who reinforce “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” we must consider the best interest of children, who should not be within range of firearms.
Overall, European countries have greater restrictions. Although a country such as the United Kingdom does not have similar access to guns, citizens are not in greater danger. In a March 2016 article, The Guardian argued, “A look at four countries show that tougher gun laws have been central to these efforts, but that enforcement and culture may also play important roles in preventing violence.” Changes in the U.K. occurred after Thomas Hamilton shot and killed teacher Gwen Mayor and 16 five-year-old and six-year-old students in Dunblane, Scotland on March 13, 1996 with his “legally held arsenal of handguns.” National outrage about Hamilton’s ability to purchase firearms after being disavowed as a Scout leader due to his behavior toward young boys in part yielded the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. The act “banned all cartridge ammunition handguns, except 22 calibre single-shot weapons,” and paved the way for future measures to tighten the law. Although gun crime increased in certain years, Mark Mastaglio, who worked for the Forensic Science Service, affirmed that the legislation “had a huge impact on registered gun owners in the UK.”
The belief that mass gun violence can be eradicated by placing guns in classrooms and training teachers to use them has no proven effectiveness. The practical solution is to observe other countries and understand how they handled gun violence in the past, and how we might emulate them to see similar results. Moreover, lawmakers and citizens in favor of protecting the right to bear arms should consider the price, and whether it is worth the lives of Americans, including many who cannot legally vote, to change the laws that affect their lives.