Commentary: Some Texas teachers have ideas about guns in schools

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramDecember 30, 2012 

The last thing a pair of high school football coaches, a fifth-grade math teacher and a sixth-grade principal ever thought they would have to consider is adding a gun permit to their skill set.

From Arlington Martin football coach Bob Wager: "Could I see me having a gun in my office in the next whatever period of time? Unfortunately, horrifically, yes. My hope would be that [the gun] would be the deterrent from keeping situations [like Newtown, Conn.] from happening.

"I can't believe we are having this conversation."

Amen.

Of the four educators I spoke to for this column -- Wedgwood sixth-grade school principal Kelli Taulton, Westcliff fifth-grade math teacher Doug Mocek, Arlington Bowie football coach Kenny Perry and Wager -- all felt an inevitability that educators will eventually have access to a gun at their school in the future.

"Does that mean I go out on the field and coach with a gun on my hip?" Wager asked. "I don't know the answer, or the proper solution. This isn't a cop-out. I don't know and, when I do, I change my mind. The entire scenario is frightening and saddening."

With all due respect to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who last week delivered one of the most tone-deaf speeches in the history of insensitivity regarding the Newtown tragedy and gun rights, I do not care what he thinks.

The same for the NRA members who are currently consulting with attorneys to lobby the Arlington school board to allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed handguns.

The people that matter to me the most on this issue are the adults who are going to be required to carry the guns, be they principals, coaches or teachers. They are the ones watching my kid, in the proverbial line of fire, and their opinion should carry the most weight on this divisive issue.

"I am a gun advocate and I would be in favor of an aggressive plan if there is an intrusion," Perry said. "But... how do you control the kids if something happens if your gun is taken or stolen? I also don't know if people carrying semi-automatic weapons is the answer, either."

Carrying a gun next to the clipboard would be yet another piece in the evolution of safety replacing actual teaching in the importance of what teachers and coaches do.

No. 1 -- Don't let kids get shot.

No. 2 -- Teach the alphabet, the capital of Texas is Austin, eat your vegetables, etc.

"It was already going that way before [the shootings at] Columbine," Taulton said. "It was more because you started running into parents that are coming in here cussing us out and ready to beat their kids right here in the building. The primary goal we have is to keep our kids safe."

Taulton said she does not want to carry a gun.

"Now would I if I had to? Yes," she said. "It scares me to think about, but it's society. It's what is happening."

Mocek teaches math to fifth-graders. He loves to bird hunt, is comfortable with guns and will follow whatever policy is put in place.

"Even in elementary school, we are vulnerable to these things," Mocek said. "It puts into perspective these safety drills. Before it was going through the motions of duck and cover, or lockdown drills. Now it has meaning -- this is the reason we are doing it and doing them correctly."

Over the years, we have grown accustomed to locked school doors. We are used to going through metal detectors at high school football or basketball games.

Despite such measures, schools and school events are pretty much wide open; if someone wants to do something bad, he can.

Would Coach Perry carrying a .45 deter someone from doing bad? Possibly.

The theory that the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is not exactly two plus two.

Shooting a gun is not as easy as those guys on The Walking Dead make it look. Now add duress, noise and inexperience and the equation changes in ways that no one can accurately predict.

The whole thing is a giant mess of frayed nerves, raw emotion, anger and fear.

"Newtown was the last straw," Perry said. "This one hurts the most. There is so much anger. I don't see what can be next. I thought Columbine was as tough as it could get. How has our society come to this?"

Got me.

But we're here. And we have to talk about it.

"Yeah we have to," Wager said, "but it makes me sick."

I just hope before a politician tries to create policy he consults with the principals, teachers and coaches. They're the ones who would be carrying the guns. They're the ones trying to teach and coach our kids.

Their voice should matter more than a lobbyist or lawyer.

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