Arming teachers not easy answer to school shootings

Monday, December 9, 2019

Cell phones can cost $1,000 or more and even a cheap one is an important possession for most of us.

Still, it’s not unusual to see one skittering across the floor after slipping from a pocket or purse, or to find yourself googling ideas for drying one out after it has been dropped in the commode.

Now imagine it’s a lethal weapon landing on a concrete floor instead of the latest Android, and instead of ejecting a battery, it fires a bullet at 1000 feet per second.

Cell phones are ubiquitous, but some would like to see guns more common in schools, in the hands of teachers, as an answer to school shootings.

Everything that can be done to stop school shootings should be done, and many changes have taken place since the Sandyhook tragedy of 2012. We visit many area schools in the process of assembling the high school sports editions, and the change is striking.

Where we used to be able to slip into a side door on the gymnasium, we now have to enter by a single front door, often waiting to be “buzzed in” after identifying ourselves.

We’ll happily put up with the inconvenience, of course, if it helps ensure the safety of students and staff.

But an Associated Press investigation points out the dangers associated with adding more guns to any environment, even if it involves highly-trained professional law enforcement officers and not just schools.

The examination of public records and media reports documented 1,422 unintentional shootings by officers at 258 agencies since 2012.

Twenty-two of them occurred at schools or college campuses.

At least nine states have passed laws allowing employees to carry firearms at K-12 school grounds, and 19 allow anyone with permission from a school authority to be armed at schools, according to the National School Boards Association.

With a couple of narrow exceptions, guns are prohibited on Nebraska school property.

"The idea that anybody can go to Joe Smith's School of Shooting for a day or a week and become proficient at shooting a handgun in a life-and-death situation is a little bit absurd," said Doug Tangen, firearms program manager at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the state police academy.

Shooting a gun requires psychomotor skills that must be practiced over and over, he said.

"Most people, cops included, don't devote that practice time to be able to shoot it responsibly or carry it responsibly," he said.

The AP's investigation found six accidental shootings that involved officers responding to reports of active shooters.

Teachers generally oppose carrying guns in schools, with 82 percent of 1,000 National Education Association members saying they would be unwilling to carry a gun in school, even with training.

Admittedly, a strong argument can be made that gun-free zones create a “soft target” for those bent on killing as many people as possible, and anecdotal evidence can be found for any position.

Like many issues, gun safety can go too far at either end of the spectrum.

Sober consideration of consequences and probabilities must be made before making any sweeping changes school safety policy.

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