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President Trump has yet again spared debate following his remarks over the Florida school shooting on Valentine’s day. Americans find themselves not only debating the capability of Donald Trump to play the hero and run into the school armed or otherwise. The larger debate is based on his proposal to arm school teachers. According to the president, such a move would reduce the incidences of school shootings and help secure schools. Trump echoed the words and thoughts of the head of the National Rifle Asociation, Wayne LaPierre, in his sentiments that having schools as a gun-free zone was well, nonsense.
LaPierre argues that if airports, NFL and NBA games, Banks, Offices, Politicians even Movie Stars are provided with armed security, why not schools? Arguments for arming teachers were taken a step further by Pennsylvania State Senator, Don White. The senator proposed a bill that allowed school districts and school teachers alike volunteer to carry guns. According to the senator, such a policy would help reduce the casualties of school shootings and contain the situation especially in school districts that relied on state police to come to their rescue.
Despite these compelling arguments for the arming of teachers, equally compelling arguments have been made against such a move. For starters, what is to stop mischevious students from devising ways in which to gain access to their teacher’s guns? The National Federation of Teachers’ president, Randi Weingarten, arming the teachers would not only distract them from their teaching duties but would be counterproductive when it comes to saving their students’ lives. The first reaction a teacher is supposed to have in the split seconds before a school shooting gets out of hand is to try and get his or her students to safety. If teachers are tasked with the responsibility of being first responders, who then will be tasked with getting students to safety?
The co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Avery Gardiner, argued that the need to retrain and monitor the voluntarily armed teachers would have a significant financial implication on the state. There is, of course, the possibility of the guns meant to protect the students and teachers being turned into sources of harm for them. In the event that there is a school shooting and teachers are the first responders, what is to keep the law enforcement agencies that arrive moments later from mistaking the teachers for the assailant?
While Trump attempts to reassure Americans of the safe handling of the guns to be placed in teachers hands, he fails to recognize the loopholes in his own proposal. For starters, it lacks a prescribed storage mechanism for the firearms. Secondly, he fails to recognize the financial implications of suggesting that federal funds should be allocated to training teachers on the proper handling and care of firearms.
As the debate unfolds, a number of teachers have openly supported the proposal to arm school teachers. Mark Zilinskas, a High school teacher in Indiana said that he was not content with hiding and waiting for his students to be killed.