Mike Littwin: Trump wants teachers who can shoot the apple right off your head
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to imagine a worse idea than arming teachers in the classroom to prevent mass shootings. It’s an unserious idea — a crackpot idea, really — that won’t ever happen, of course. But since the president of the United States is out there pretending to treat it seriously, I guess the rest of us have to as well.
I mean, where would the teachers keep the guns? Do you want Miss Veronica packing a loaded gun in your 5-year-old’s class? What are the greater odds — that a lunatic gunman would enter the classroom or that there would be an accident involving the gun and someone’s kid winds up in the emergency room or worse?
It’s absurd. Or as my sister, the third-grade teacher/education professor, so aptly put it, “moronic.” Or should we now expect kids to hold cookie sales to buy their teachers a Kevlar vest?
“It’s inconceivable,” my sister said, “that a teacher would use a gun to kill a child. I can’t think of a profession more separate from violence.”
It’s absurd. It’s moronic. It’s straight out of the more-guns-mean-less-crime school of non-thinking. It also is, to this point, the president’s bright idea to end mass shootings in the classroom, although, I should point out he’s talking about arming teachers who have been, say, Marines or others similarly trained. He thinks there could be 10 to 20 percent who qualify and maybe as many as 40 percent, which leads me to wonder how many teachers he hangs out with. I’ve got a sister, wife and daughter who are teachers/professors, and none of them has ever fired a shot. But maybe that’s just me.
I did once have a U.S. history teacher who was a Marine. We used to entertain the rest of the class by arguing, and pretty angrily, about the Vietnam War when we should have been talking about, I don’t know, the Missouri Compromise. He used to tell us when he was a World War II officer, he prided himself on never having taken prisoners. In retrospect, I’m kind of glad he wasn’t armed.
Presumably, Donald Trump is talking about teachers carrying a concealed weapon, although who knows? Is a concealed weapon sufficient to take on an AR-15 from someone coming into the classroom who doesn’t expect to get out alive? We’re told by the president that “a gun-free zone to a killer, or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for ice cream.”
It’s an interesting theory. Trump said that the shooters are “cowards,” who wouldn’t bring a gun to school if they knew they’d be met with guns — as if they cared about consequences or were busy looking for soft targets. I wish I could have asked him this: How many of the ice-cream-loving school shooters are either dead or in prison? (Hint: Without doing the research, I’m guessing all of them.)
He also said school shooters are “savage sickos,” but added in the Parkland shooting: “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”
Well, there’s this conflicting evidence from the armed deputy at Stoneman Douglas who apparently chose not to confront the shooter and didn’t shoot the hell out of him. This was a trained Broward County officer who stood aside while 17 kids were killed. He resigned from the force. Trump called him a “coward.” I don’t know. I’m guessing the guy sent to guard schools is not chosen for his gun-fighting abilities.
And, of course, there are all the pretty obvious red flags — serious warnings about the shooter — that various law enforcement officials saw but didn’t apparently think were important. And we’re talking about arming teachers?
Where we can all agree is that there are few things worse than mass school shootings, even if the NRA accuses the media of loving them. (Note: I’ve covered five, starting with Columbine, one as heartbreaking as the next. Only a sociopath would make that accusation against reporters, or anyone else, and actually mean it.) And mass shootings, we know, don’t happen only at schools, but at churches and at movie theaters and at country music concerts.
But let’s get past emotions here and move on to the data. In 2008, The New York Times did a survey of all NYPD shootings from 1996 to 2006. They found cops — the good guys with guns — hit their intended target 34 percent of the time, which means they missed two shots out of every three. And if that’s sounds low, try to put yourself in their place — shooting at actual human beings is apparently harder than you might have guessed from watching TV.
More pertinent numbers, though, were found in a 2006 study from the Rand Center on Quality Policing, which determined that in a gunfight the police hit rate fell to just 18 percent. In other words, firing at someone while someone is firing at you is a hell of a thing to try to do, and that’s for cops who are trained to do just that. Imagine a teacher shooting across a classroom full of students while trying to bring down a heavily armed sicko savage.
Or consider this: In an FBI analysis of law enforcement engagement with 45 active shooters between 2000 and 2013, the cops were either killed or wounded 21 times.
In other words, this has got nothing to do with ice cream or with teacher training. This has to do with the intersection of disturbed young men and their easy access to high-powered guns. And unless you’re talking about how to resolve that complicated issue, you’re not saying anything that matters.
Mike Littwin is a former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com