So apparently we’ve reached the point where the prospect of arming teachers as a deterrent to mass shootings is a proper subject of dicussion. As a veteran, gun owner, and someone who has been shooting since I was nine years old, I have to say this is the single worst idea I have heard in my entire life.
The first thing to understand is that being able to point a gun at a target and hit it with a bullet is a very, very, very different thing from being able to stand your ground and kill another human being when the situation calls for it. Highly skilled soldiers and law enforcement officers train for years to do it, and many of them still freeze up when it happens. The sheriff’s deputy who was on duty at Parkland did exactly that. This isn’t meant in anyway as an attempt to second-guess or criticize him, but rather to illustrate that no matter how much training you have, there is no way to predict how you’re going to react when the time comes.
Reagan, as you may note in the header image, got shot multiple times when he was surrounded by the most highly trained and best-equipped security force on earth.
Killing Is Hard
I never served in combat myself, but I have friends and relatives who did, and the one common denominator among the stories I have been told is the sense of complete and utter chaos – the sheer terror and tunnel vision that takes hold when the bullets start flying, even when you’ve been through it before, even if it’s happened a hundred times.
These are stories I’ve been told by police, former Marines, and former soldiers, most of whom volunteered for this duty and underwent extensive training for it. How can any rational person ask a teacher to take on such awful responsibility?
We need to be realistic about how an idea like this would be implemented. Most teachers nowadays spend hundreds of dollars every year of their own money to buy school supplies for their students – there is a federal tax deduction for it. Private firearms training is very expensive. Even a week-long course – a tiny fraction of what we give our service members and police officers – can cost several thousand dollars. The great likelihood is that these teachers will be expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the expenses for this idea, which means they are certain to be woefully unprepared to actually do anything in an active shooter situation.
Accidents Are Easy
The other thing to appreciate is the sheer scope of what this would entail. There are roughly 250,000 primary and secondary schools in the U.S. If we assume a modest four teachers per school sign up for this idea, that’s still a million guns being brought into our nation’s schools. One million. Forget for a moment what it would mean for deterring mass shootings and think about the potential for accidents. The vast majority of teachers would be careful and responsible like they are with everything else, but human beings are not perfect. There are going to be desks left unlocked, guns left out by accident, teachers who suffer from a momentary lapse in judgement. What happens then?
There will be angry kids who steal guns and use them on kids they’re angry with. Gang kids who steal them to use in crimes. Bullied kids who take them to strike back at their bullies. Depressed kids who take guns to kill themselves. Jilted boys who take guns to kill their ex-girlfriends and then kill themselves. And there are likely to be plenty of teachers who suffer from the same failings. Statistically, all of these are far, far more likely at any given school than a mass shooting.
Again: We have 250,000 schools in this country. We’ve had a couple of dozen mass school shootings over the past few decades.
Shooters Don’t Care
Finally, the idea that this would deter more school shootings strikes me as highly unlikely. Most mass shooters either kill themselves or just keep shooting until they’re killed by the police. Surviving to face justice is quite unusual. It’s a deliberate attempt to go out in a blaze of glory. And my guess is that there are probably some who would actually be attracted to the idea of getting into a shootout with their teachers – a chance to engage in a live-action video game. Rather than be deterred, they’re almost certainly just going to complement their arsenal with a bulletproof vest.
If you have a shooter who has spent weeks or months psyching himself up for this situation, is prepared to die in the process, going up against unprepared teachers who came to school that day expecting to do no more than teach, what do you really expect to happen?
Gun Control Isn’t Rocket Science
If you want to cut down on mass shootings, you need to start with the tools that are used to do it.
But we can’t ban all guns. Socially, politically, legally, that just isn’t going to happen. The 2nd Amendment is a thing, and private weapon ownership is a right. But like all rights, it comes with responsibilities and limitations.
Forget the guns and focus on the bullets. If you want to stop mass shootings, here’s what you need to do:
- Ban rifles with detachable magazines
- Ban magazine capacities over 5 rounds
That’s it. It won’t end gun violence, but it would dramatically cut down on the mayhem any individual shooter could perpetrate.
Neither idea would meaningfully interfere with hunting, sport shooting, or self-defense. There are already regulations on magazine capacity for hunting in most jurisdictions. Shooting off a ton of rounds at once is fun, but so is driving 130 mph on the freeway, and we don’t allow people to do that either. Having to reload after five rounds isn’t really a meaningful inconvenience when all you’re doing is shooting at paper targets and junked cars.
And if you need more than five rounds for self-defense, well, you’re incompetent enough with firearms that you have no business carrying one. The reality is that the vast majority of crimes stopped by private weapon ownership don’t involve any shooting at all.
Would it interfere with masturbatory fantasies about rising up in rebellion against some theoretical tyrannical government? Maybe. But that possibility is so remote that it really doesn’t warrant any consideration. No one is going to rise in armed revolt against socialized medicine or trans-friendly bathroom legislation, and frankly as a veteran I find the suggestion that our armed forces could be co-opted for any sort of real tyranny to be far more offensive than anyone kneeling during the National Anthem.
We can disagree about the wisdom and methods of gun control, but I would like to think the vast majority of this country knows better than to inject a million guns into our schools.