Editorials

Park Hill or Parkland, arming teachers is laughable, but not funny

This safety message was posted on the Park Hill School District website Friday morning.
This safety message was posted on the Park Hill School District website Friday morning.

Terri Daly is an elementary school librarian and teacher in Park Hill, the district a high school student threatened online early Friday. So naturally she’s living the debate about whether all those “gun-adept teachers” who “were Marines for 20 years” should, as President Donald Trump is urging them, take up arms to protect their students: “It’s a huge concern for the majority of people I work with.”

Also on Friday, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said the idea “may be a good solution.” It’s not.

Already multi-tasking at all times, and with more than 20 children in a class, Daly wonders how any one human could be totally focused on both educating and heading off violence “for a little bit of a bonus,” as Trump has said, or for any amount, for that matter. Her colleagues overwhelmingly “feel it’s laughable, but sad we’re even having this conversation. Like, ‘I can’t believe this is their solution.’’’

The president speaks as though our schools are lousy with teachers who are “well trained” Marine veterans, which is not the case. The sheriff’s deputy who for whatever reason never ran into the high school in Parkland, Fla., shows that even those who are well trained can freeze in an active shooter situation.

Arming educators “would be a major deterrent,” Trump told his audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, “because these people are inherently cowards.” The shooter in Parkland “would not have gone there” if he’d thought teachers inside might be armed.

Since those who shoot up a school or any other venue only rarely survive their own attacks, self-preservation would not seem to be a major motivator. Unlike the guard who stayed outside, Trump said with confidence, “a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened. They love their students.” But love does not confer sharp-shooting ability. “A lot of people that were totally opposed to it are now agreeing” with what Trump called his “great idea.” No, they’re not.

We’ll stop there, because the larger point is that this whole discussion is nonsensical. It is smart, though, as a distraction from any real action, either on guns or mental illness, which only rarely results in violence. That he also said on Friday that “we don’t want people who are mentally ill to have any form of weaponry” suggests how unserious he is about that issue. Recently, he made it easier for those so impaired they can’t take care of their own finances to buy a gun.

David Muhammed, who teaches at Shawnee Mission East High School, said he and his students talked about the issue in class on Friday, and have questions: “Who is going to pay for this training? What about the liability for a mistake? What if the cops come in and mistake a teacher with a gun for a shooter?” And finally, this one: “Do we want schools or prisons? Kids are already highly anxious, and more guns don’t necessarily make them safer.”

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