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Teachers with Guns?

Handgun -- or: How to be successful at school...


Most of you probably heard about or watched Ed Schultz’ interview of a Utah teacher who said she had a concealed carry permit and was bringing a gun into her classroom. When Ed asked her if she had told the children she replied no, and when asked if she had informed the parents she also said no, that it wasn’t necessary in her opinion.

Well, here are my impressions of that situation. First off, let me say that I am not anti-gun. I grew up in a household full of guns, and have owned handguns myself. I don’t at the present time, but it is strictly a matter of not feeling like I want to deal with a gun, not because I am opposed to owning a gun. When I was a kid, hunting was a necessity to help feed our large family. It was not a sport. If my dad didn’t fill his tags, by the end of the year, we didn’t eat any meat. So this is where I am coming from. Back to this teacher.

There are many things about this teacher that trouble me, and the whole idea of guns in a classroom. Many of the things I am about to say are conjecture about this particular teacher – they were not brought up in the interview, so if they are incorrect about her personally, I apologize in advance, but just apply the situation to classrooms and teachers and kids in general.

First, she stated that she did not tell the kids that she was carrying a gun. This is amazing to me on its face. Does she really believe the kids in her class don’t know? If so – she is either incredibly naive, or just plain stupid. No matter the age of the students, they do know. Kids are incredibly observant. Those little eyes see everything, they are watching everything. When you think they aren’t anywhere around, they are. And if one of them knows anything – they all do.

So, one of these days, one of those kids is going to ask her flat out if she is carrying a gun. What is she going to say? If she lies and says no, she has then damaged her credibility beyond repair in the eyes of her students. And not only the students in this class, but the students in the entire student body for the rest of time. Because the word will go out. What this means is that her effectiveness as a teacher is destroyed because the students now know that she is a liar first and foremost. They will not trust in or believe anything she says after that.

If she says yes, her effectiveness as a teacher is also destroyed as well. I don’t know what grade level she teaches, but the effects are bad no matter what. In lower elementary grades, the children will be afraid of her. They will see themselves as the “target” – that she is going to use the gun to shoot them. Young children do not understand some amorphous ‘other’ who may show up to harm them – they take things upon themselves. No amount of explanation will serve to dissuade them that they are not the ‘target’ or to blame. After all, we all know young children in the middle of divorce squabbles who are firmly convinced that they are solely to blame for their parents’ problems and cannot be convinced otherwise.

For older children and younger teens, the gun becomes a challenge. Who can get it, a game of dare, curiosity. They want to see it, touch it, examine it, experiment with it, see how it works. In other words – do what kids do. One of them will steal it, and one of them will shoot it. If they are very lucky, no one will get hurt. But with todays zero-tolerance laws – that one will go to jail, regardless. And whose fault is that? In the meantime, all the focus of the children is on the gun, not on their lessons. The teacher has, again, rendered herself irrelevant.

Now, this teacher has also stated that she saw no need to inform the parents of the fact that she is carrying a loaded gun in the classroom. I find this to be astounding. In a local school district where I live, parents sued successfully and had a teacher reprimanded and suspended simply for showing the movie “The Story of Stuff”. This is a movie about our consumer-driven economy and attempts to raise awareness of recycling, reusing and responsible purchasing. But the parents involved decided it was ‘liberal brainwashing’ and now if anyone wants to show this movie to students, they must have signed permission slips from every parent or the student is not allowed to watch. And yet this teacher thinks that carrying a loaded gun in the classroom is okay and not necessary to inform the parents? Well, as a parent myself, I would be outraged at the thought of a teacher of my child doing such a thing. I want my child’s teacher focused on teaching – not on worrying about a loaded gun!

Next, nowhere in any of the discussions around teachers carrying guns have I seen any thought given to the idea that just maybe there ought to be some training requirements before you jump to start doing all this. For all the NRA and their supporters’ claims of the defenders of home and self running off the bad guys with their 2nd Amendment guns, the truth of the matter is that the majority of the time, when the bad guys show up and the homeowner comes out with his gun, the bad guy not only takes the homeowner’s gun away from him, the crook then shoots the homeowner with his own gun and then steals the gun as well. The NRA has been saying that if only the teachers at Sandy Hook had guns they could have prevented all the deaths. Well, Adam Lanza was wearing body armor. How many people, you know, average citizens, could point a gun at another person, especially a young person who looked like Adam Lanza, and pull the trigger? Especially, if in his case, they would have had to shoot him in the face? I dare say, not many. And he was prepared to die – and was shooting back at them.

And finally, even with the best training, innocent bystanders get killed. And in a classroom full of 30-40 kids, all the innocent bystanders are … yes, more kids. A recent shootout between a gunman and several police officers in Chicago resulted in a total of about 65 shots fired. The lone ‘gunman’ eventually put his gun to his own head and killed himself. He was not shot by the police. He never shot anyone other than himself. The police shot all the other bullets. Nine people were killed. Eleven others were injured including two police officers. All of them were shot by the police. ‘Nuff said.

There were two Sheriff’s deputies at Columbine. They were not able to stop Harris and Klebold. There was a Sheriff deputy at the school in Southern California this week. The teacher who was wounded in the head was able to talk the shooter into stopping. The deputy was nowhere around.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. But I think the conversation needs to be about more than just more guns or less guns. It needs to include more conversation about mental health and the use of anti-psychotic drugs on young people because almost all of the multiple shootings by young people in the last decade have involved the use of those drugs.

It needs to include conversations – face-to-face conversations with our kids who are feeling so isolated and depressed while they are going through the most traumatizing time of their life – and yes I meant to use that word. Just think back to your teen years and really think about what you went through. Then think about what it would have been like if there was not one single person you could physically talk to face-to-face. All of our kids are twittering and facebooking and emailing and all that stuff but no one is actually speaking to one another.

And of course you add in the video games and movies. And the fact that both parents are working and no one is ever home and kids are raising themselves. And then throw in the guns.

We cannot solve this problem with quick fixes. There aren’t any. This problem has been festering for a long, long time. And it is going to take some long time talking and thinking and trying things and trying some more in order to figure it out. I hope we make until then, and I hope our children last until we do too.

Photo from flickrsven licensed under Creative Commons

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