John Colson: I’m against arming school teachers
February 26, 2018
If you're tired of hearing about or talking about the ongoing national debate over arming teachers as a way to reduce gun violence in schools, I guess you can stop right here.
For Aspen readers, you can be content with the seeming likelihood that the Aspen schools, at least, will not become armed camps anytime soon.
But elsewhere in Colorado and the nation, things may turn out otherwise, which is why I am addressing the issue for the second time in two weeks.
In part, that's because these murderous events keep happening, and so far we have not come up with a national answer to the question of how to keep it from happening again.
Just this year, according to CNN and other news outlets, there have been eight school shootings in which 42 children and adults have been wounded or killed. Looking backward from the Parkland, Florida, massacre on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), the bloody roll call includes public schools or colleges in Nashville, Tennessee (Feb. 9); Oxon Hill, Maryland (Feb. 5); Los Angeles, Ca.(Feb. 1); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jan. 31); Benton, Kentucky (Jan. 23); Italy, Texas (Jan. 22); and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (Jan. 20).
The odds that another shooting could happen at some school, somewhere in the U.S. by the time this column is in print are grimly high, and seemingly rising with each successive attack, given that 42 people were shot in less than a month at the eight widely different locations mentioned above.
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I'm not sure if that's a statistical record for this particular type of mayhem in this land, but it sure seems as if it should be.
Possibly the most shameful examples of fallout from the Parkland shooting incident have been the screeching from irresponsible purveyors of right-wing palaver, who maintain that the teenage survivors of the Valentine's Day Massacre are either stooges of the liberal left's anti-gun forces or are paid provocateurs hired to undermine the National Rifle Association's position.
These claims are calculated to undercut the abilities of the student activists to speak out against violence in the schools and to call for tougher gun-control measures to head off future incidents.
That's right. Even as they give lip service to the outpouring of grief and support for these kids, spokespersons for the right have chosen to attack the students, essentially blaming the victims for crying out against the violence.
The NRA's chief, Wayne LaPierre, has followed his organization's typically empty-headed rationale that the fault for violence in schools is not with the guns that are used to kill students. Rather, he and his ilk have loudly maintained, the violence should be blamed on basically everyone who might feel that it is too easy for disturbed young people to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction — in this case, semi-automatic rifles — and use them to act out on whatever paranoid, anxiety-fueled delusions or frustrations have filled their minds and hearts.
The warped logic behind this argument is that, if more people were armed at the Florida school, the shooter would have been scared off.
In keeping with this addled premise is the call for a national program to arm teachers and other educators while they are in school, on the theory (never proved, anywhere) that the teachers could engage in a fire fight with an active shooter in the school and kill the shooter.
In this blame-the-victims scenario, the NRA is following an insane line of thinking that goes back at least as far as the years following the American Civil War, when pro-slavery apologists accused African-American victims of violence of making up stories of being killed and maimed by slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan and southern law officers. Some said black witnesses in Congressional hearings on the matter were actually paid agents of the anti-slavery contingent, based on the bigoted belief that former slaves could not possibly tell the truth or even know what was happening around them.
Anyway, the calls are growing louder to arm the teachers, which some have estimated could cost billions of dollars to buy the guns needed and conduct the training that supposedly would make our schools safe again.
Nowhere in this rationale is any recognition that, first off, teachers are trained to teach. They are not soldiers drilled in the use of weapons. Military veterans, police officials and educators all have condemned this line of thinking, pointing out that putting guns in the hands of teachers would, in turn, put the teachers in the line of fire once police respond to an active-shooter report at a local school.
Put most simply, active-shooter scenes in schools (or anywhere) are high-tension situations, in which police are expected to intentionally charge into a location where someone (or more, in some circumstances) is shooting with deadly intent and where they, the officers themselves, must make instantaneous decisions about whom to shoot in order to stop the bloodshed.
In Parkland, Florida, a sheriff's deputy on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was allegedly so unnerved by the sounds of shooting that he sat outside the building for four long minutes — indeed, until the shooting was over.
If a trained law officer can be so affected that he fails to do his duty, just imagine what would happen if teachers were called upon to defend the school by returning fire.
This leads to consideration of another possibility — that the teachers might miss their intended target and end up shooting a student or another teacher by mistake.
How would that play on the nightly news?
In fact, the calls for arming teachers has only one beneficiary — the NRA and the gun manufacturers, who must be salivating at the prospect of a boom in sales of the guns that would end up in the hands of teachers, administrators and perhaps even students themselves.
This country already is an armed camp, where some reports estimate that there are 87 guns of one sort or another for every 100 people in the nation.
Here in Aspen, thankfully, School Superintendent John Maloy has swiftly announced he is not in support of arming teachers, but prefers looking for ways to increase security at the schools to prevent armed attackers from achieving their aims.
Some communities in Colorado, mostly in rural areas, already have climbed on board the NRA arm-everybody train, such as the Hanover School District, about 30 miles southeast of Colorado Springs, and the town of Fleming, in the northeastern corner of the state.
Others, though, have demurred, such as the Mancos School Board in southwest Colorado, where most board members reportedly indicated they might go along with arming teachers, but then bowed to the anti-arming sentiments of a crowd at a meeting last month.
I guess all we can do is wait and see how similar discussions play out in the coming months, as Colorado and the nation continue to search for ways to end the bloodshed at our schools.
I, for one, hope that we soon come to our senses and at least take steps to end the sale of semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines to anyone older than 18 who wants to buy them, no matter what the NRA says, and that we never go along with arming teachers.
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