November 29, 2015

Should Teachers Have Guns?

Noah Brown ‘18

On November 1, gunfire erupted on the campus of North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State University, killing one student and injuring another.
Just 10 days earlier, a shooting at Tennessee State University left one person dead and two others injured.
Almost two weeks before the Tennessee State shooting, on October 9, two people died and four were wounded in two separate and unrelated attacks on Texas Southern University and Northern Arizona University’s campuses.
With so many shootings occurring on school campuses, a frequent response among second amendment advocates is that arming teachers is key in curtailing the amount and severity of these shootings.
The topic of guns in school – specifically arming teachers – is, however, by no means a simple question. Although most GOA students and faculty agreed teachers should not be permitted to carry firearms on campus, the debate was livelier and more nuanced than most would think.
The initial reaction among students and teachers was to question why anyone would think it a good idea for a high school teacher to have a gun.
“I don’t want to put 50 guns in a school,” said Dr. Kelmanovich. “The fewer guns the better.”
Others added that the risk of a murder under this policy is higher than the risk of a murder by an actual intruder.
Students also worried that if teachers carried guns, a student could simply take one.
“Once you put guns into a school, they’re in the school,” said sophomore Eran Shapiro. “You can’t ensure they stay in the hands of the teachers.”
History teacher Mr. Zelenka agreed, saying that, “If I’m at a water fountain, you think I’m paying attention?
“There are dozens of opportunities a day for a shooter to take a gun from a teacher.”
Another critical component to the debate is how guns on campus would affect GOA’s current security measures. To my surprise, most did not feel that arming teachers would make the school more secure.
“Security is important and we take it seriously at our school,” said Head of School Mr. Shapiro, “[but] I don’t believe that having armed teachers would make us safer.”
Understandably, many teachers were uncomfortable with the idea that they would be acting both as security guards and as teachers.
Director of Israel Education Rabbi Kallush, for example, noted that when she was a tour guide in Israel, she had someone else guarding the group.
“I couldn’t focus on leading and safety,” she said. “I had my job and the guard had his.”
Likewise, Mr. Shapiro stated, “I want our teachers to teach and the security guards to keep us safe.”
The dynamic between students and teachers would also certainly be affected on a smaller scale than what security tends to handle: inside the classroom. Students said that they would have to trust the teachers a lot more than they already have to, which could distract students and make them uncomfortable. Many teachers believed that they, too, would be distracted by the responsibility of carrying a gun, and that guns would create a barrier between teachers and students.
“[Having guns] imposes danger,” said Mr. Zelenka. “It makes students think, ‘My teacher needs to have a gun. That’s the world I’m living in today.’”
Zelenka’s colleague, Mr. Stern, however, disagreed.
“At first it would be distracting,” he said, “but I would just ignore it after a time and I think students would too.”
Mr. Stern certainly isn’t alone. In fact, Math teacher Mr. Laks took it a few steps further, stating that if teachers were properly trained, knew how to treat a weapon, and took proper safety precautions, he would support the option of arming teachers.
He does concede, however, that such conditions are difficult to implement and that if even one teacher slipped up, it would compromise the entire policy. He realizes that there are many factors to consider when bringing guns into schools and that it may not be the right decision for every institution.
The idea of arming teachers would theoretically increase the safety of the school, but in practice it provides too many opportunities for a potential attacker to gain possession of a gun. Like many at GOA, I support the the idea of “the fewer guns the better.”
The argument for arming teachers with guns is that guns are a method of defense in an intrusion or a shooting; however, I think that if guns are nonexistent on campus from the onset, nothing is needed to defend against attacks.
I am also against arming teachers because it changes the student-teacher dynamic at GOA, for the worse. Guns represent power, and asking a student to trust a teacher with a gun is difficult. While armed teachers might make some students feel secure, others will feel uneasy around and inferior to their supposedly accessible teachers.
Generally, members of the GOA community seem comfortable with our current security measures, but would support extra security – including guns – if the need arose. I, on the other hand, would not support these measures. The chance of a shooting occurring at our school with the addition of over 50 guns is exponentially greater than the chance now.
I am not willing to put our school’s teachers and students in potential conflict and danger. It is clear to me that not arming our teachers is the right choice.
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