Saturday, January 12, 2013

Can Smith and Wesson Save Our Schools? Or, Will Guns Be Our Undoing?

Several weeks after Newtown, the debate about what to do to make our schools more secure continues. The NRA has called for armed guards in every school. Some school districts in Texas and Utah are arming teachers and administrators. One school district in Ohio is arming its custodians. (Montpelier Ohio School Board Votes to Arm Janitors) In typical American fashion, many reactions to the Sandy Hook tragedy have been to grip our guns even tighter and declare certain ideas like assault weapons bans and more extensive background checks as “off-limits.” We simply avoid considering that this insane insistence that “having our guns because the Second Amendment says so” is perhaps part of the problem.

The problem with the idea of arming school employees is that it will not work. Just placing a gun in the hands of a school employee with minimal firearms training is ludicrous. At minimum, these individuals need the same kind of crisis training that law enforcement officers get, and I would argue that they need to keep training continuously to ensure that they react in the same manner a police officer would in a shooting situation. If there is anyone carrying a gun in my building, I want them to know more than how to load it and shoot effectively at a target. I want them to be able to react and respond to threats just like a trained police officer would.

What happens when you simply place a gun in the hands of an individual after giving them a basic program of firearms training? Check out this ABC 20/20 special video entitled “If I Only Had a Gun.” Clearly from the video, you see why this kind of measure is simply a futile attempt to “Do Something” and avoid asking the serious questions. Each of the individuals in the video who are placed in a shooter situation are ineffective because simply having a gun will not make anyone safer. This is because individuals who lack extensive crisis situation training and experience like that obtained by law enforcement will not react in effective ways to deal with the shooter.

If we want to really deal effectively with school shootings and gun violence, we need to look for multiple solutions, not just a simple one which is how I would classify arming educators. The whole idea suggested by NRA Wayne LaPierre that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” betrays his and many American’s misplaced idolization of the power that guns really have anyway. It is the typical “Wild West” reaction to the gun problem. "Let’s arm up, and if we have any issues we can shoot our way out of the problems." I would add this question, “ We've been doing things that way for a couple of hundred years, so how is it working out?” That the trail of gun victims continues to grow is the answer.

LaPierre and many Americans idolize the whole idea of having a gun, and perhaps that is one of the issues we need to look at as part of our multi-solution approach. We need to reflect a bit and ask ourselves why do so many Americans believe so strongly in salvation wrought by Smith and Wesson in the first place?  Are we really that afraid of ourselves and our government? Do we really see the only solution to violence is more violence? Just maybe, at the heart of our American gun problem is both the belief that guns only solve problems and not create them and a stubborn insistence on having guns in the first place because of our Second Amendment rights.

I want to be optimistic and say that we will resolve the school shooting and gun violence issue in our country, but I am not sure we are reflecting deeply enough and asking the right questions. The NRA is not going to offer anything but a gun solution because they look out for the interest of gun manufacturers, not the interests of students in our schools. I would not expect any deep reflection from them because of this. But it is inexcusable for educators to react without somehow questioning this deep American fascination  with owning guns in the first place.

Educators owe it to their kids to not oversimplify and jump at the cheapest “we-gotta-do-something” measure that comes along which is what the whole idea of arming educators looks like. I would also say that we don't need to just react and ban everything with bullets either. Instead, maybe we need to begin questioning the American idolatry of guns and why we fundamentally always believe the best response to violence is more violence.


  1. Great post. I agree that if any school wants a armed guard it needs to be a professional who has lots of training and continues to train. I think this should be a decision for each school or district as it already is and not imposed by state for federal government. The school that the Obama children attend has armed guards and it had them before the Obamas showed up. Some schools in my area hire off duty police who show up with their service revolvers. I fear that the law of unintended consequences will result in an accident or the inadvertent shooting of a student by an armed employee at some point. Keep up the good work.

  2. J. Robinson: WONDERFUL blog entry! Re-posted at ["Eloquent (& important) blogging from 21st Century Principal"]

    Also, please see ["Resist the New Normal"]. I think there are probably many more of us who are not viewing guns as a solution to a culture of violence...
    Thank you for writing!