Commentary: Arming teachers is not the answer for Newtown violence

The Kansas City StarDecember 22, 2012 


Mary Sanchez is a columnist with the Kansas City Star.

MBR — Kansas City Star/MCT

Here is the concealed-carry version of solving school violence: Reading, writing and target practice.

“Arm the teachers” is the first flimsy argument gathering steam after the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders. It seeks to draw a connection between places where guns aren’t allowed — schools in this case — and mass shootings.

That’s a tactic to increase gun ownership that existed long before the Connecticut shooter took his mother’s guns, killed her and then headed to the elementary school. It comes packaged with its own terms — “gun-free zones” — pre-loaded for just such a national tragedy.

No surprise that a few Missouri politicians pounced to file legislation. Their bill would allow a public school teacher or administrator with a concealed-weapons permit to have their gun at school.

Shouldn’t something as drastic as arming public school teachers be based on critical thinking beyond that of the average kindergartener?

The proposal hangs on the thought that shooters choose their locations for mayhem because they are “gun-free.” If that were true, Gabrielle Giffords wouldn’t have been a target at a place where the Arizona concealed-carry law would imply that anybody nearby might be armed.

In fact, one armed man that day almost shot the guy who had wrestled the gun away from the shooter.

The legislation also ignores the fact that student shooters often make targets of their own schools, indicating complicated connections between the place and the gunman, but not necessarily his chances of successfully murdering many people.

Argument by anecdote is also part of this theory’s shallow foundation; one instance of a gun-wielding person successfully thwarting a would-be shooter is used to justify arming many people.

It has politicians surmising what might deter a mentally ill person, ignoring the ability of illnesses like schizophrenia to alter a person’s grip on reality.

Besides, the average person has neither the skill nor the composure to shoot accurately in a tense situation. When it comes to fight or flight, many of us are flight.

Law enforcement, especially at the federal level, trains with mechanical simulators. These are high-stakes situations where split-second decisions force people to assess a threat, to fire accurately, or to choose not to. The abilities of the average Joe popping a few rounds at a shooting range simply do not compare.

What if the would-be teacher/hero mistakenly kills a child?

With the public safety benefits sketchy at best, this is basically an argument seeking to increase gun ownership.

The dead children of Sandy Hook Elementary School are just the latest victims on which the pitch is being made.

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