BY GOWRI ABHINANDA
NEWS COPY EDITOR
On Feb. 14, 2018, 14 innocent students and three staff members’ lives were tragically cut short at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) due to an ongoing gun violence epidemic in America. Ever since the fateful events at MSD, just 20 minutes away from the Bay, firearm legislation has been debated incessantly, but to no avail. Countless pieces of legislation have been proposed in hopes of ending gun violence, yet, in response to all the bloodshed, the Florida legislature has decided the most sensible course of action is to arm teachers.
Although some believe teachers should take on the responsibility of defending the classroom, the idea of arming faculty seems to be detrimental when it aims to provide safety to students in a learning institution. One glaring flaw in the concept of arming teachers is the effect imminent fear has on the teacher’s ability to respond and protect under these tense situations.
Looking at the circumstances in Parkland, this plan can seem like an unrealistic burden which will be placed on teachers. Law enforcement officers who are professionally trained for life-threatening situations, found themselves succumbing to the pressure of MSD. If an individual, whose primary role is to protect, was unable to do so in this incident, how can one expect an educator, whose primary role is to teach, take on this daunting task?
Arming teachers follows the philosophy of: the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. In a perfect world, this philosophy may be effectively executed, however, if a teacher were to cross the barrier of anxiety by engaging themselves in the encounter, they would have to successfully eliminate the threat.
According to a study conducted in 1998 and 2006 by The New York Police Department, the largest police personnel division in America, the accuracy to hit an intended target during a gunfight is only 18 percent. With this in mind, it seems unclear as to how effective arming teachers would be when the nation’s best police force has a relatively low precision rate in gun fights.
More importantly, there are also potential risks which must be taken into account as they threaten the welfare of the school. There is a fair probability of a firearm being misplaced which allows it to wind up in the wrong hands. Additionally, there is a chance a teacher may lose their composure and resort to using the gun in class. It is also likely there is an accidental firing of a gun in the classroom.
These worries have been confirmed in 70 different instances in the past five years according to an analysis of the Gun Violence Archive starting in 2014. In these 70 different scenarios, mishaps that are all too precarious have occurred such as a teacher accidentally firing a gun during a safety demonstration. Accidents relating to guns cannot be afforded when trying to facilitate a safe learning environment; it would be a shame if a program, which is aimed to protect students, unintentionally put them in harm’s way.
Despite these issues, legislation has been passed, such as the SB 7030 bill which was proposed by Florida politicians to expand the state’s guardian program to allow teachers to be armed in school after completing 144 hours of training. Thus far, seven out of 67 county school districts in Florida have adopted this provision and this is seven too many.
Considering the recent events in Florida and around the country, this piece of legislation seemed to treat the prevalent issue insensitively, especially when direct parties involved, such as students and teachers, expressed their opposition to the new provision.
As of 2019, in Florida, 51 percent of voters are opposed to the proposal; whereas only 37 are in favor of arming teachers, while the rest were indifferent. As noted by a Gallup Poll, which surveyed only teachers, they found 73 percent had a strong opposition towards being armed, whereas only 20 percent thought the idea was reasonable. According to the Washington Post, 68 percent of students felt arming teachers was a deterrent to their safety. Parents were also concerned, according to a Phi Delta Kappa International poll, which illustrated two out of three parents being in disagreement about having their children’s instructors equipped with weapons.
Even some Republicans who traditionally support a right-wing idea were wary of the proposal. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, the United States Senator of Tennessee and a chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he is not a big fan of arming teachers. All of these statements present the legislation for arming teachers doesn’t sit well with the majority, including those who advocate for the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
While Florida legislators try to appeal to their partisanship, it can be seen that the rest of the community shares a general consensus about how arming teachers for the means of safety is unwise.
There is also the question of whether or not this plan is economically reasonable. As of now, the budgetary allocation for arming teachers has not yet been disclosed, however, there is frustration regarding the funding in the education department.
Superintendent Robert Runcie, the leader of the sixth largest school district in America, said, “We need to arm more money in their pocket.” He believes it is a bad use of the district’s funding when the money could be used for facilitating a stronger education. With the idea being more perilous than beneficial, educators feel like the money would be going to a lost cause.
After facing these tragedies, society is striving to create a common resolution to prevent gun violence in an environment that should be safe for learning. However, this route to a safe education system should not be sought out by arming our teachers.
We should not be playing with lives and fancy the National Rifle Association’s whims of a hero coming in with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. The premise of the argument is fighting fire with fire, but this viewpoint is a fallacy.
Looking at the bare bones of the affair, one can see if the gun was removed from the equation, innocent people wouldn’t have to perish. Friends and families wouldn’t have to mourn; the news wouldn’t have to report on these events just to forget about it later and people wouldn’t have to live in fear.
Gun legislation, especially when it pertains to the lives of young human beings, should aim to discontinue these calamities rather than creating more risks for students and staff members. For school safety, rather than arming teachers, it would be valuable to use the money towards healthy propositions. This includes providing security to school buildings or mental health programs in schools, which are desperately needed to constructively cope with rising anxiety levels.Whatever the proper solution may be towards this predicament, it is not arming those who foster a learning environment.