“My first thought was that this isn’t at all what I signed up for,” Jenna Whitesell Carson told VOA. “I became a school librarian not to own a gun, but to educate young minds.”
Carson worked for four years at a public high school in rural South Carolina. She said she was stunned by the idea of arming teachers to prevent school shootings in the future.
“My second thought was that they definitely don’t pay us enough for this. Teachers already have a lot on our plates. Now Republicans want to take away our right not to have guns?”
In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 students and two teachers, Americans across the political spectrum are once again struggling to address the country’s ongoing gun violence pandemic.
However, proposed solutions depend on the side of the political divide from which they come. While Democratic lawmakers and their allies are calling for legislation that would restrict access to certain firearms and better screen gun buyers, some Republicans and gun rights advocates have suggested putting guns in the hands of teachers and other school workers who Volunteer for that responsibility.
Wayne Lapierre, CEO of America’s most famous gun rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, sums up the justification for giving weapons to teachers. Lapierre has long insisted that “the only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.”
Many teachers reject this idea.
“The kids, the teachers, and the education are in the schools—not the guns,” said AJ Allegra, who has taught at New Orleans, Louisiana, K-12 schools for 15 years. He said, “Imagine your oldest teacher when you were shooting a gun several times within feet of 25 kids at school. The image is as absurd as the idea.”
However, some teachers see it differently. Jason Winder has been teaching high school history for five years in Utah County, Utah. He keeps a concealed firearm at school, which is legal in the state.
“It’s not about being a hero, and it’s not about looking for an active shooter,” Winder said. “It’s about giving me the best tools to keep my students and myself safe. I can’t speak for everyone but a shotgun in my hand to corner someone trying to harm my kids.” would be much more effective than concealment.”
Since 1970, there has been at least one incident of school gun violence in every US state, according to federal statistics. Most have had dozens of incidents, with California and Texas each having suffered over 100 incidents.
The Uvalde tragedy was one of more than two dozen school shootings in the US so far this year.
Silver Spring, Maryland, middle school music teacher Jonah Rabinowitz-Buchanan noted that many schools already had armed personnel to protect students and staff, yet the slaughter continued.
He referred to a 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that killed 17 people. “They had a resource officer with a gun, and he fled the scene,” he said.
Rob was also a resource officer at Elementary School in Uvalde.
“The Uvalde officers weren’t even in the building. What good are they?” Rabinowitz-Buchanan said. “How does this equate to schools needing more guns?”
Sergeant Keith Mott, a 15-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, agrees that operating a firearm should not be a priority for teachers. Rather, he believes that the focus should be on the failures of resource officers.
“The resource officer is the first line of defense,” Mott said. “Teachers, on the other hand, have enough to try to educate our children. That is their goal, and there is no reason why they should be armed in the pursuit of that goal.”
But some teachers want an extra line of defense. Angelica Garcia works in schools in Saginaw County, Michigan. Teachers are not allowed to carry guns, but she wishes she could.
“Last week showed us again that teachers cannot rely on others to protect us and our students in a dangerous situation,” she said. “No one came to the aid of those students or teachers.”
At the very least, Garcia says, schools should have more non-teaching personnel armed and ready to intervene during an emergency. But, she adds, teachers who volunteer to be trained and carry guns will be present in every wing of the school.
“You need them to prevent the loss of life,” she said. “I care for my students like they are my own children. If need be, I want to protect them, not just sit around like a duck sitting with a stapler in my hand.”
Ryan Petty’s daughter, Alaina, was one of 14 students killed in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Since then, he has become an activist, striving to make schools safer by supporting legislation allowing teachers to voluntarily carry guns to school if they are trained and certified to use it. In 2020, Conservative Governor Ron DeSantis appointed her to the Florida Board of Education.
“I’ve heard many law enforcement officers say that two guns are better than one, and three is better than two,” he said.
In a school shooting, seconds count, Petty said. The average attack takes just five minutes, he said, but it takes an average of five to seven minutes for law enforcement to respond.
“In a 2019 report from the US Secret Service, only 1 in 42 school attacks were prevented by responding to off-campus law enforcement,” he said. “Having an armed resources officer and other armed staff members gives schools the best chance of saving lives.”
Most teachers are not convinced. A 2018 Gallup poll found that 73% of American teachers did not want to have guns in school.
New Orleans teachers see Allegra guns as the root of the problem. The Giffords Law Center listed nearly 100 publicly reported instances of mishandling of guns in schools over the past five years.
“We already have more guns than any other nation on the planet,” Allegra said, “and there are more gun deaths than any other nation on the planet. Whether the relationship between those figures is a little unclear.” ? The solution is to reduce the number of guns operating in our country, to reduce the ability for Americans to purchase high-powered automatic weapons, and to increase criminal charges against those found with illegal weapons in their possession.”
Other teachers say the focus should be on diagnosing mental illness and/or keeping school buildings safe.
Thomas Couture teaches the middle school band in South Carolina and a member of his school district’s safety and procedures team. He believes America has been too hesitant to diagnose and treat mental illness.
“We need to pay better attention to that,” he told the VOA, “and pass red flag laws that deal with threatening language on social media. Violations should result in a weapon confiscation. You don’t own a gun.” That’s when you’re making illegal threats.”
Couture also advocates single public admission to all schools. He said a resource officer should supervise that entrance to maintain security.
“I think of it all from the point of view of being the father of two kids. How do I want my kids’ teachers to act?” Kotor asked. “I’d like them to worry about closing a door instead of making a detour. A closed school, not armed, is safe and can make kids feel safe. It’s important.”
ESL teacher Garcia doesn’t completely agree. He believes that responsible teachers and staff carrying guns will make schools safer.
“And it’s not like kids should see a gun or know that teachers are carrying one,” she said.
But despite their many differences in views, most teachers share an end goal.
“The goal is to make sure our children feel safe, but also to make sure they are safe,” Garcia said. “At the end of the day, we all want to go home to our families, so that our families can come to our homes, and we all live to see another day.”