Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, President Donald Trump said he had a solution to end classroom massacres once and for all: arm twenty percent of America’s teachers with concealed weapons, and train them to “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”
The response to his proposal was swift and negative.
“It’s a crazy proposal,” said Dr. David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health and an expert on the public health impact of gun violence. He added, “So what should we do about reducing airline hijacking? Give all the passengers guns as they walk on?”
Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called it a “colossally stupid idea.”
“If having more guns in more places made Americans safer, then we would have the lowest rates of gun violence in any developed country in the world, and the exact opposite is true,” she said, calling the notion that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” a myth.
The New York Times editorial (see below) this morning panned Trump’s proposal for several reasons including the fact that teachers being human and not used to extreme violent situations may do more harm than good. The Times editorial points out that in New York City there have been a number of instances where police officers have shot innocent bystanders while trying to stop a gun-wielding criminal. Business Insider provided the following:
“Data compiled by the New York City Police Department underscores the difficulty of firing accurately in challenging situations. In 2005, NYPD officers intentionally fired their guns at someone 472 times, hitting their mark 82 times. In 2006, New York police fired under the same circumstances 364 times, hitting their target 103 times. That same year, Los Angeles police fired 67 times, recording 27 hits.”
Lastly, it should be mentioned to President Trump that there happened to be an armed sheriff’s deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when 17 people were killed and that he took cover outside rather than go into the building when the massacre began. The deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned on Thursday after being suspended without pay by Sheriff Scott Israel.
“He never went in,” Sheriff Israel said in a news conference. He said the surveillance video showed Deputy Peterson doing “nothing.”
“There are no words,” said Sheriff Israel, who described himself as “devastated, sick to my stomach.”
We are all sick to our stomachs with the massacre in Parkland, Florida, and the “pathetically weak” way our elected officials including President Trump do nothing about gun violence in this country.
Let the Teachers Teach!
By the New York Times Editorial Board
February 23, 2018
President Trump on Thursday repeated his call for “highly trained” schoolteachers to pack heat in their classrooms. If they were armed, the president said, they could fire back immediately at school shooters like the young man with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle who took 17 lives in Parkland, Fla. Beyond that, he tweeted, the knowledge that teachers have guns of their own would deter “the sicko” from heading to a school in the first place. With his usual fondness for capital letters, he added, “ATTACKS WOULD END!”
Thus did Mr. Trump parrot a tired shibboleth repeated once again on Thursday by Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun,” Mr. LaPierre told a gathering of conservative activists. Actually, it’s hard to tell who was parroting whom. The president said much the same in a morning tweetstorm that said “a ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people.”
Let’s ask someone who’s in the trenches every day what he thinks of arming teachers. “It’s hard to begin to count the number of ways this is a bad idea,” said Chris Magnus, police chief of Tucson.
For starters, the number of gunslinging educators would be huge. In the United States, there are about 3.5 million elementary and secondary school teachers in public and private institutions. Arming 20 percent of them, as Mr. Trump suggested, would mean 700,000 or so teachers with Glocks and the like on their hips — an armed force half as large as America’s real armed forces on active duty. One can envision parents with the means to do so swiftly yanking their children out of that sort of environment.
More to the point, many deranged mass murderers expect to die themselves during their killing sprees. It’s almost laughable to believe that the president’s proposal would deter them.
And then there’s this inescapable reality: Teachers are human. It means they would most likely react to stress-induced fear the same as anyone else, with unintended consequences that could put even more people in peril.
You want people highly trained in the use of firearms? The New York Police Department has about 36,000 of them. Generally, despite an impression held by some people, they are restrained in firing their weapons. But in high-stress situations, they’re human, too. “Police officers miss a lot in combat situations,” said John Cerar, a former commanding officer of the department’s firearms and tactics section.
Nationwide statistics on police shooting accuracy are not to be found. But if New York is typical, analyses show that its officers hit their targets only one-third of the time. And during gunfights, when the adrenaline is really pumping, that accuracy can drop to as low as 13 percent. While Mr. Cerar thinks armed teachers could provide some deterrence, he said that experience shows, “Whatever you do, there’s going to be a problem associated with it.”
One problem is shooting bystanders. It isn’t routine, but it does happen. To cite just one example, from 2012, two New York officers shot and killed a gunman on a busy street outside the Empire State Building. But they also wounded nine other people who were hit directly or struck by shrapnel from ricochets.
It takes little imagination to foresee a situation in which a frightened teacher, thrown into a combat situation — in a crowded space like a school hallway or classroom — wounds students in the process of trying to take out a gunman.
The best way to prevent the threat of a bad guy with a gun is to keep him from getting the sort of battlefield weapon the Parkland killer used, by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and by tightening background checks.
In his remarks, the mendacious Mr. LaPierre said gun restriction advocates seek to “eradicate all individual freedoms.” In fact, sensible gun laws would give people, especially children, a better chance to enjoy the first of the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence: life.