In the last 24 hours, President Donald Trump has offered a series of proposals to prevent against another school shooting like the one that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, last week. None have been as audacious as his idea to arm teachers so that they can respond to a gun-toting intruder in real time.
The president has suggested that roughly 20 percent of teachers be able to carry a concealed weapon in the classroom. Those teachers would be trained in the use of firearms so that they could, in Trump’s words, “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.” As an incentive, Trump added, schools could give teachers who choose to carry weapons a bonus for doing so.
It’s unclear who would pay for this all and—more importantly—whether it would be effective or counterproductive. What is clear, however, is the impact it would have on teachers. The Daily Beast asked educators what they would do if they or their colleagues were asked to carry guns in their classrooms. None supported the idea. Many, in fact, said they’d quit teaching.
Here are some of their (lightly edited) responses:
Katie Murray, a New York City Catholic school teacher
The shooting at Sandy Hook scared all of us, students included. One of my third grade boys that year said hearing about the kids who died, “made (his) heart hurt.” I took it upon myself to rearrange the bookshelves in my classroom to create hiding spots and barriers should anything ever happen. Imagine that. Billions (?) of dollars being poured into our military and national security and I'm building a bookshelf fort (filled with books I’ve purchased with my own money) to protect my students from being murdered with assault rifles.
The idea of having a gun in my classroom or any of my coworkers’ classrooms makes me sick. It’s incredibly irresponsible and frankly it’s insane. In 2017 there were over 2,000 accidental shootings. I can only imagine what that number would be if guns were allowed in schools. Like I said, I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation in 2018.
I love my job, I love my coworkers, I love my kids, I love their families. But if arming teachers ever became mandatory I’d walk away from it all. I’d leave behind the hundred or so books I’ve bought for my classroom library, the posters and worksheets and games I’ve made, the decorations and supplies I’ve bought, the lesson plans I’ve slaved over, all of it.
High school special education teacher who requested he remain anonymous
I served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003-2007, I worked my way through college as a paid-on-call firefighter, and for the past 7 years I’ve worked as a special education teacher in the resource side and with students with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities on the life-skills side.
I’ve been through executive security courses as a Marine when I worked for the II MEF Commanding General. [As a firefighter] I responded to car accidents, fires that turned out to be murder/arson scenes, and a variety of other emergency calls. On paper I’d be an ideal candidate for being an armed teacher, but I would resign immediately if I was told I was going to carry a weapon at school.
As a high school special education teacher, my job carries a variety of responsibilities. One period I might be working with a student on factoring/foiling quadratic equations and in another period I’m working with students on reading with picture supports. My daily routine includes problem solving social skills with students, changing diapers, supporting students to complete their writing assignments, communicating with parents, progress monitoring towards IEP goals/objectives, explaining their rights as citizens, assisting with medical needs (seizures/ insulin/ asthma/ etc.) and a variety of other random tasks... I don’t need to add another concern of a student reaching for my weapon to the list of a 1,000 things going through my head as I work with a kid in close proximity. If one of my students with a severe disability has a meltdown over a change in their schedule I should be able to focus on that student and not have to worry about my weapon.
Lisa Witlen, a former teacher in New Jersey
I am a retired high school math teacher. I would have quit before ever allowing myself to be trained to have a gun in school. I was a teacher hired to teach my students math, not hired as an armed guard.
Tory Logsdon, an 8th grade social studies teacher in Genoa, Illinois
I am a public school teacher at a public school. I am also an Army veteran. I am against teachers being armed in large part because it is only a Band-Aid approach to a much larger problem and it allows state and federal govt to pass the buck - to avoid what is in their power and responsibly to fix. Stop requiring teachers to do more than they should. If there is an active shooter, responsibility will be to save and protect as many students as possible and to be with them in our joint moment of terror.
Peter Hay, a former teacher and veteran.
Arming teachers is an idea so dumb. 1) More guns in any equation equals more death, not less. 2) The number of times a teacher stops a mass murder with his gun will be dwarfed by the number of times a teacher kills a fellow staff member or student, intentionally or otherwise. 3) Teaching and Secret Service agent are jobs that aren’t conducive to one another; it will just make them bad at both jobs. 4) Teachers are already underpaid, lack resources and supplies, and subject to unfair criticism. This would expose them to new levels of blame for jobs that shouldn’t be theirs, but have become so only because the rest of society keeps passing the problem on.
Aashish Parekh, a teacher in Washington D.C.
I have no idea how much time, money and resources it would take to train a teacher how to shoot, store and carry a gun, but I imagine a lot. You and I know both know how busy a teacher’s schedule, how many hours and weekends we put in to our job. When the hell are we going to find the time to get trained? Just to give you an idea how busy I am: I schedule my own bathroom time during the school day. Not kidding. I guarantee you, you would see mass protests, strikes and walkouts before many of us agree to carry a gun in a classroom... with kids!
Mason Burns, a recent college professor
I am wildly opposed to teachers being asked to take on the additional responsibility for numerous reasons. First, education has always been collaborative, and students knowing I was armed would undermine that relationship. Second, the presence of firearms leads to an increased likelihood of accidental gun related issues/deaths... even among trained individuals. Third, my wife said she would divorce me if I started carrying a gun. And fourth, perhaps most importantly, this isn’t what I signed up for. Police officers and military join knowing firearms are integral. If guns become the norm among teachers, the type of person who pursue academic careers with change. I would posit, for the worse.