Every week PJ Parenting writers weigh in on parenting issues large and small and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!
Question: After the recent shooting in Oregon, GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said, “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t.” Do you agree?
Julie Prince: I have no problem with teachers being trained and carrying. I believe it would have saved many lives or deterred the situation all together. Luckily, we have an armed police officer at our school all day, every day. It provides parents with peace of mind.
Bethany Mandel: I think armed and trained officer(s) is a great idea. I’m not in love with the idea of 25 young people, one teacher and a gun in a safe per room. I know few American teachers who would be proficient in using one. School shootings are quite rare, no matter what the hype is.
Kristina Ribali: I would absolutely be more comfortable with my child in a classroom with a trained and armed teacher than I am with him in a gun-free zone. Yes, school shootings are rare, but I bet there would be even fewer if predatory killers knew they’d have resistance. They prey on the weak, they’re calculating. They know they can do a lot of damage in a very short time and the odds are in their favor. I’d like to change those odds by allowing teachers, whom I believe love and care for our kids, to actually protect them. [Read Kristina’s very personal story about her family’s decision to keep a gun in their home here.]
Leslie Loftis: Hubs and I keep tossing around the idea for a granddad guard. We have Army and Marine grands in our family — trained and experienced. Chances of baddies getting to their grandkids? Slim.
Mostly, though, I’m appalled by school security. I, the mother, have to submit to a background check, wear a photo name tag, etc. if I’m on campus. There are fences all around and only one operable door where they buzz you in after you look at the camera. All that security is for the parents. But the playground is open. Anyone can walk right in. It’s all just silly.
Jamie Wilson: Not necessarily the teachers, but certainly anyone who is tasked as a gatekeeper. And it should be a requirement.
Adam Lanza got past the front office at Sandy Hook by killing the people who could buzz him in — they tried physically to stop him, but were unarmed. Had the receptionist or principal been in possession of training and a gun, things would have been very, very different. We even have an ideal pool of Americans who would be happy for positions in school front offices protecting children — retired and other former members of the military. The skills and experience these men (and some women) have already acquired could be put to good use protecting our children at home.
There’s an idea my Navy husband and I have batted about, too. In the military, every small division has to have one person properly trained in first aid and CPR. The military doesn’t want all its people walking around armed, but why not have one person in every small group trained and required to carry a weapon at all times while on duty to protect against terrorists like the one in Chattanooga? The same idea could work very well in schools. If would-be shooters know that one in every five teachers is armed, trained and concealed-carrying, wouldn’t that make them think twice before entering that school with ill intentions?
Give me school choice, and that’s the school I would choose: one that cares enough about its children to actively and forcefully protect them. Hire armed and trained ex-soldiers to work in school administration, and it’s a win-win, minimal cost to the schools and employment for those who deserve it most.
There is a reason we have Sergeant at Arms positions. Heck, acolytes, long before they became altar boys, were the protection detail. The only thing novel about Jamie’s idea is that it is no longer done.
Jamie Wilson: Completely agreed, Leslie. That was the role of footmen, too, in the grand European houses — not just to look pretty and serve dinner, but to guard the household. Organized police forces have been the norm for less than two centuries, and like any protection, people have grown complacent, expecting that protection to be foolproof and perfect. But sometimes seat belts fail and condoms break, and our cops can’t be anywhere instantly. Hence the wisdom of seeking out honorable rough men to protect our most vulnerable.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell (sort of)
Megan Fox: “Rough men.” I love men. What would we do without them?
Jamie Wilson: I love rough, heroic, yaupish men. One of the reasons I hate contemporary feminism so.
Susan L.M. Goldberg: As someone who worked in the public schools and also has a mother-in-law who was armed when she was a teacher in Jerusalem, I can see both the positive and the negative sides of arming teachers in America. What the argument boils down to is a person’s ability to use a weapon effectively when called upon to do so. In America, by and large, the teaching profession is not acculturated to the use of weaponry. In Israel the majority of the citizenry has had military experience. Terrorism is also, albeit unfortunately, understood to be a part of life in Israel. Guards are stationed at the doorways of many public places including banks and malls. In America we’ve had how many movie theater shootings and we still don’t accept the idea of armed security guards at multiplexes, let alone school campuses. If we can’t accept that, we can’t expect our teachers to think operating a gun is a realistic part of their job description.
School security measures vary by district, but are patchwork at best. Parents need [ID] badges, but playgrounds and sports fields aren’t gated. Security monitors are often the equivalent of TSA pat-down agents: paid slightly more than minimum wage with little to no prior safety-related experience. Their only weapon is a walkie-talkie. And this is your first line of defense in case of attack. School secretaries are equipped with video monitors and buzzers to screen those walking through the door, but how many are acculturated to the idea of refusing entry to someone they don’t recognize? Does that school secretary really know the face of every single parent? How many schools have implemented systems that require parents to provide a passcode in order to obtain entry? How many parents would protest if such a measure was taken?
Emergency evacuation protocols are even more hideous, often leaving students and staff evacuating to open fields or public spaces like sitting ducks. Students who are drilled on multiple types of attacks monthly have grown disaffected, often chiding the system and using the constant evacuations as an excuse to ditch class altogether. Teachers bemoan the constant interruptions and often use their time in the field to surf the Internet on their smartphones, the exact thing you don’t want to be doing in case of attack.
Before ever advocating arming teachers, I would first favor a tighter relationship between public school districts and local law enforcement. Having armed police men and women patrolling the halls and grounds of our schools would be a lot safer, not just in guarding against terrorist acts or live shooter attacks, but other forms of criminal activity as well. Right now, school security is the equivalent of those Drug Free School Zone signs from the ’80s. If we want to take our children’s lives seriously, we need to take the threats we face as a culture seriously. Shootings aren’t just sensational fodder for the 5 o’clock news, nor can they be dismissed with another bureaucratic committee, or another useless law that does more to disarm law abiding citizens than take weapons away from criminals.
Brianna Sharbaugh: When they built new buildings for our local school, they decided to make kindergarten through 12th grade all in one building, separated from each other by locked fire doors. This whole setup was discomforting to me. While school shootings are extremely rare, I am always a fan of a good contingency plan. At our church (a congregation of around 400), we have at least a dozen people who have concealed carry permits and have guns on them at all times. I never fear for my family’s safety because these people know what they are doing with a gun and safely carry them every day. I, however, have never held a hand gun. My husband insisted on teaching me how to hold his hunting rifle (after convincing me that I should be prepared in case we ever had an intruder when he was not home), but that is the closest I have come to ever firing a gun of any type. The thought of arming people like me is not comforting because I don’t know what I am doing with a gun. On the other hand, the thought of people who are already trained to use guns carrying them is a comforting thought. Forcing someone who is unwilling to take the time to learn the best and safest way to carry and use a gun is not something I think is worth anyone’s time. However, allowing already trained personnel to carry a gun seems like something worthwhile to me. I’d feel better knowing that a teacher who took the time to pursue a concealed carry could keep a shooter from the elementary school students at my school.
The problem, again, is never the gun. The problem is the person who holds the gun. If we can have skilled personnel using their guns to stop a killer, the results could be life saving.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
See previous PJ Parenting Roundtables: