Some Points on Arming Teachers


With regard to President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers as a defense against school shooters, an important question hasn’t been asked.  Are we talking mandatory training and carrying, or are we just talking incentives for districts that have capable teachers to develop them?  These are important policy distinctions, and we don’t seem to be conducting this debate in a mature-enough manner to consider them, because consideration means assuming that people with whom we disagree might have a point, or at least a right to have their ideas included in a compromise.  It also means understanding the appropriate role of emotion in public policy debates.

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo sent out a press release this morning titled, “Enough,” that opens this way:

I’ve cried enough.
I’ve prayed enough.
I’ve had enough.
It’s time to listen to our kids.

The news media has been ensuring that we’ve listened to children quite a bit, but again, we need a mature conversation.  Kids say things like the following, from second Providence Journal article covering a few people holding an event, this time students:

“How do we defend kids from guns with more guns?”

No doubt this student could answer that question with only a moment’s thought, but the fact that reporter Linda Borg thought this rhetorical question worth highlighting in her article shows the controlling attitude of one side of the gun issue:  Oh, the wisdom of babes!

Borg also quotes a 15-year-old girl as saying:

“Our president is not taking responsibility,” she said. “Because we could have prevented these 17 deaths and so any more.”

Presumably, she doesn’t know how right she is.  The things that we’re learning about warnings given to public officials, in one case specifically that this kid in Florida had guns and was on a clear course to becoming a school shooter, are shocking.  When the event went down, four armed deputies hid outside.

To answer the student’s rhetorical question about guns, one way to protect kids from guns with guns is to ensure that the defenders don’t hide.  Couple that revelation with news from the arrest report that some “staffer” in the building saw the shooter coming and had time to radio somebody else, and it’s even clearer that these 17 deaths could have been prevented.  Who was the staffer with the radio at hand?  What if he or she had had a gun next to the radio?

I’m not necessarily saying that public policy should pressure teachers to carry guns, but at the very least, mature adults should recognize that the topic is worthy of discussion.  Applied on a case-by-case basis, it might make perfect sense, especially if we consider that potential shooters will know how much better protected their intended victims are.

To be sure, I have my doubts about applying the policy to Rhode Island.  The head of the National Education Association of Rhode Island labor union is skeptical about the idea, and frankly, after watching the public behavior of unionized teachers in East Greenwich and Providence, recently, I’m inclined to agree that we shouldn’t trust them with guns.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    First, I have no doubt that looking down the barrel of a 1911A Colt may alter an assailants point of view. But it may not. In reality, a teacher armed with a handgun, facing an assailant with a rifle, has two choices. Hide, or close so that the handgun may be effective, However there is more to be considered than teaching teachers how to handle a firearm. They have to be taught to “shoot to kill”, this is not easy for a civilized person. Perhaps that is why the FBI uses “Dillinger” man shaped targets. These are discouraged, or not allowed, at many private pistol ranges.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Just thought of an angle not discussed, liability. Suppose a teacher firing at an assailant hits a student (think Ruby Ridge where the two dead federal marshals were found with federal bullets in them). Is that simply “collateral damage”, or does liability attach?

  • I don’t know?

    “Applied on a case-by-case basis, it might make perfect sense, especially
    if we consider that potential shooters will know how much better
    protected their intended victims are.” What does that even mean?

    • Justin Katz

      It means what it plainly says. I’m not advocating for arming teachers as a blanket measure, but in some schools and with some teachers, it might make sense, especially if it contributes to a general awareness that teachers are (or might be) armed, which potential shooters would have to take into account.