The NRA lunatics seem to have settled on their counterpoint theme to the outcry for some kind of gun control. In their twisted little minds, we should simply arm the teachers, and make sure everyone has access to a gun.
Yep, that's the answer. MORE guns. Guns for everybody! Too many guns to count, just arm them all and let's see who's the last one standing.
It's unspeakably stupid, and it's the last thing our schools need right now. Will we also require teachers to wear bulletproof vests while they're teaching their classes in case there's a shootout between the teacher in the classroom next door and some insane crazed lunatic with a weapon that should never have been invented, much less used by a civilian?
Last summer, I spent time in Detroit at the American Federation of Teachers convention. As I walked around the convention center I picked up snippets of conversations here and there. More than once, teachers expressed concern that they could not keep the children safe if their class sizes were too big. You may recall that Mitt Romney, Michelle Rhee, and other "reformers" are all fans of large public school classes, provided the teacher is "competent."
I wonder how they would measure those teachers' competence in the area of shielding 40 kids from a crazed gunman with a couple of assault rifles? Let's assume those teachers took some district-mandated gun safety course and carried a gun with them in the classroom -- an odious thought. Salon's Alex Sietz-Wald spent some time looking at the question of whether carrying guns is an effective defense when the bad guy has the element of surprise. His conclusions will not surprise you. The answer is an emphatic "NO."
The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for anyone, let alone a lightly trained and inexperienced civilian, to effectively respond to a shooter. The entire episode can take a matter of seconds and your body is fighting against you: Under extreme stress, reaction time slows, heart rate increases and fine motor skills deteriorate. Police train to build muscle memory that can overcome this reaction, but the training wears off after only a few months if not kept up.
In 2009, ABC’s “20/20″ demonstrated the problem with a clever experiment. They recruited a dozen or so students, gave them gun training that was more comprehensive than what most states require for concealed carry permits, and then entrusted them with a gun and told them they would have to fend off a shooter later that day. Separating them, they placed each one in a real classroom with other “students” (actually study compatriots). When a gunman burst in and started shooting, each student tried to respond by drawing his or her gun. Every single student failed, including several who had had years of practice shooting guns, and they all got shot (fortunately, it was just paintball bullets in real handguns).
The truth, as difficult as it is to accept, is that it’s often impossible to stop a shooter no matter how many guns are present. John Hinckley Jr. managed to nearly kill Ronald Reagan and permanently disable James Brady despite the fact that they were surrounded by dozens of heavily armed men with the best training imaginable. The only way to stop the incident would have been to prevent the offender from getting guns in the first place.
The entire article is the one long read you should indulge in today. Seitz-Wald does a terrific job of debunking the myths about defensive shooting in an already-chaotic scene, and cites cases where highly trained police have reacted with a tragic result of shooting innocent bystanders instead of the perpetrator.
Arming teachers isn't the answer. Scapegoating teachers isn't the answer. Supporting teachers, making sure they have adequate security, an evacuation plan, enough teachers' aides and a manageable class size is about the best anyone can do. For all of the stories of tragedy told over the past few days, there are also stories of heroism, of teachers shoving the kids into bathrooms and closets, keeping them safe and shielding them with their bodies.
This is what teachers do. It's what they're trained to do. It's why they're teachers. Arming them is not the answer. Supporting them is.