guns in classrooms is not a strategy

Arming Teachers in Schools Is Not a Strategy

The proposal to arm teachers in Texas to solve gun violence in the schools is preposterous. While there may be individuals with the ability and training and know how to effectively guard their classrooms in addition to teaching children and performing the myriad other tasks (counseling, discipline, reporting to parents and administrators) and are willing to accept the substandard wages and working conditions provided to most teachers, the fact is that there is currently a teacher shortage without adding commando to the job description.

I am a gun owner who has invested significant time and effort into training in the effective and safe use of a firearm. I am proficient and confident inmy abilities to defend myself in normal circumstances. However, this has taken years of both tactical and defensive training and if I were I a teacher, there is no way I would consider attempting to both teach and to defend myself, much less dozens of panicked children at a moment’s notice from a well-armed and armored, emotionally disturbed madman.

I think about my dear friend Ellen. She is a 3rd grade reading teacher. A kind, gentle soul who has a passion for imbuing children with the ability to discover the magical world of books, she is petite and not entirely enthusiastic about firearms. I could never hope to replace her as a teacher. To expect her to suddenly become more adept with guns than I am with the limited training offered by the state is ridiculous.

I imagine being in a classroom full of 8-year-olds managing the daily mayhem, when unannounced, a man bursts into the room with a long gun and starts mowing children down. My little 9mm handgun is in a lockbox under my desk as per sensible school guidelines. (Walk around school grounds with a loaded firearm on your hip? Not advisable. Two children of significant size can easily overpower me if I am caught unawares.) So assuming that I am also ambulatory, I turn away and leave these children who are now presumably injured and dive for my lockbox. Oh, wait, the key is in my purse, which is in the faculty lounge or maybe it opens by combination and I can, amid all the chaos and with trembling fingers remember the combination, open it up. Time has passed and our shooter has loaded his second magazine. If I am very, very lucky he a horrible shot or is taking his time. However, even if he is nervous and a bad shot, his weapon is built for combat and he will do a lot of damage even if just sprays and sprays.

Now, I retrieve my 9mm or maybe, if I am not afraid of weapons or I have large hands, a .45. If it is a Glock, I probably have it on Israeli load which is to say I have to rack the slide and then steady myself to take aim. If it is 1911, I have to remember how the locking mechanism works and since I don’t fire this thing every day, I’ve got to fiddle with it. Oh…ok…NOW I am ready to take aim. Wait. Because there is a potential that a child might be able to get in the lockbox so the magazine is not in the weapon. I have to fish around in the box, find it, and orienting the magazine (bullets facing out, right?, seat the magazine (did I hear it click? I can’t hear anything), and then rack the slide before I can chamber my first round.  I have barely the grip strength standing calmly next to the range instructor but now I’m supposed to with shaking hands and wet palms.

Ready! Okay, now to take aim. You have a highly limited number of tries here. A standard magazine will hold 10-15 rounds and then you have to reload, which means you need another magazine which you may not have, or if you do, you probably don’t have access to at this point. In the meantime, the intruder can use a high capacity magazine that will hold 60 rounds, and he probably carries several spares. Even if he is a terrible shot… or his weapon jams… or something lucky happens, he has probably done considerable damage before I am ready to take aim and shoot.

I haven’t shot in a while so my first one is probably going to go to waste and piss him off… like swatting a bee. Oh… right… the sights on the weapon. Forgot about that. Yeah, the standard sights aren’t that good. Most of the time you’re going to want competition sights and the better ones are a bit pricey, perhaps beyond the budget? Oh…I forgot about the trigger. Is this a single action or double action? Or is this a Glock, which is neither? Do I remember? I don’t do this very often and my training class was a while ago… I’m not sure, as even when I was on the range, it’s intimidating to shoot this thing and I only wanted that class to be over with. Unfortunately, now is not the time to make the distinction.

Then there’s form. I don’t train like a soldier every day so I’m a little rusty and have to adjust my stance a bit and remember to breathe in and keep the firearm close to my body and lean into the shot–not like they show on TV raring back on your heels like a horse getting ready to buck. Is my grip correct? Don’t stick the thing straight out in front of you. Geeze this is just so different than it was on the range where it was quiet and I had on “ears” and there was only the hum of others in the distance. The sound of children crying out in pain, shrieking in agony, was not how I trained, but here I am.

And… there are only two possible shots for me to take. One is center mass and the other is a head shot, otherwise I’m not going to stop the threat. On a moving target that has far more firepower than I do and has effectively murdered just about everyone in the room and I’m looking down at young, lifeless, mangled bodies now covered in blood and I ready myself to take my shot. Even if you were a professional with hours and hours and days of professional training and indeed you trained every day, success in this scenario is a stretch at best.

Anyone who is an honest firearms owner with sufficient training knows this solution is not viable. If you’ve had the opportunity to participate in mock scenarios in a “shoot house,” it quickly becomes apparent that for the normal person, it’s extremely easy to become confused and shoot the good guy or disengage with the target and simply waste all your shots. You miss! You’re full of adrenaline and scared; it’s not going to go down like you think. And to all those blowhards who say “yeah, I could do it”… maybe. The only successful case scenario of which I am aware of was a church in Ft. Worth where the guy shot the gunman. He was a firearms instructor with thousands of hours or training and practice under his belt and he had the element of surprise. There is no surprise at an elementary school when someone with a mental-health issue walks through the door.

But it is to the Ellens of the world that this “strategy” is directed. This is not a strategy. It is a macho pipedream for individuals who refuse to admit (because they do indeed know, whether they admit it or not), that until we put forward sensible gun laws (there is no way an 18-year-old should have possession of an AR-15, nor should people who are emotionally disturbed), we are going to pray, offer condolences and wring our hands when this scenario plays out again, and again, and again…

Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

Olivia M. Casey

View posts by Olivia M. Casey
Olivia Casey is a former journalist with the Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. She resides in Dallas, Texas and currently works in public health.

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