As I was driving into work this morning, one of the local morning shows was talking about allowing teachers to carry guns into schools. Not all teachers, just those that wanted to and were properly trained in the use and safety of firearms. It also seems that all I’ve seen on social media outlets, blogs, and in the national media is if we hadn’t taken god out of the schools, these types of tragedies wouldn’t happen. We need to bring god back into the schools to prevent these things from happening in the future. I would like to address both of these items because I do not believe either of these “solutions” are the answer.
Allowing Teachers to Carry Firearms Into Schools
I do not understand why we, as a society and as a nation, are immediately calling to allow teachers to carry guns into schools. There are numerous reasons I believe this solution is not only problematic, but dangerous.
1. What on earth makes a teacher immune to the evil that drives people to commit such heinous acts of violence? Teachers are not saints. They are susceptible to the same things the rest of us are: being underpaid, feeling under-appreciated, depression, family life, divorce, unhappiness, mental illness.
2. Allowing teachers to have guns in schools increases the chances of a teacher being able to abuse their power and control, not only over their classroom, but over individual students as well, either intentionally or unintentionally. A student simply knowing the teacher has a gun in the classroom may lead to intimidation, and an unwillingness to speak up if the student feels dissatisfied, confused, or unsure about something.
3. Allowing any firearms on school grounds could make it easier for a frustrated, confused, hurt, ill, or aggressive student (or faculty member) to plan acts of violence without having to secure the weapons themselves, and without having to worry about bringing the weapon(s) into the school on their own.
4. What kind of example would we be setting for our students? What message would we be sending? It’s very, very hard for us to know because very few of us have grown up attending schools where guns have been allowed. I know I, and probably most of the rest of Americans, have always been taught that guns are dangerous, not to be handled without extreme caution, and are only to be used at very specific times. Who knows what impression it would give our youth to see and know about guns being readily available if needed.
5. Lastly (though I’m sure I could think of many other reasons this is a bad idea), what average person, teacher or otherwise, honestly thinks they could accurately, efficiently, and safely handle a gun under the kind of stress and pressure surrounding a situation like a school shooting? Not to mention, in most of these cases, the shooter or shooters are heavily armed, often with firearms well beyond the average handgun or even hunting rifle. Let’s assume, for a moment, that we allow teachers, many of whom have never handled a firearm in their life, to be trained in firearm safety. How many times do we think those teachers will have actually fired the gun if encountered with a similar act of violence? I can tell you I have fired a total of maybe 40 rounds, on about 4 different occasions (all were hunting rifles). I would not feel confident loading, unloading, turning the safety on or off, or pulling the trigger on another human being, regardless of the situation, without significantly more practice. I can do it, but I have to make an effort to think about what I’m doing – it doesn’t come naturally without practice. Not to mention, accuracy needs to be practiced as well. All of this being the case, it is unlikely a teacher, unless it is a teacher with significant practice loading and shooting a firearm, would be able to diffuse a situation like this, let alone do it safely without injuring or killing any innocent bystanders.
So, I think we are often very quick to say “well, if one of the victims would have been allowed to have a gun on their person, they could have prevented this tragedy from happening.” I have to wonder, though, how many of those arguing for firearms in schools, or in any public place (many claimed this very same thing after the shooting at the Aurora movie theater, too), have ever actually fired a gun? And, if so, how many times? How accurately? How did it feel shooting a target? How about an animal? Would it honestly be that simple for an average citizen to just shoot another human being, especially one who is armed more heavily than they are?
Bringing God Back Into the Classroom
This topic is not as black and white, in my opinion. However, I do not think arguing that these things happen in schools because we’ve stopped allowing teacher-led prayers and discussions of god in public classrooms is remotely close to accurate. Did the shooting in the theater in Aurora happen because there wasn’t a prayer before the movie started, too? No. Absolutely not. Not to mention, no one is taking faith away from schools, at least not on a personal level. No one is telling kids they can’t pray on their own in school. Public schools just aren’t allowed to have teacher-led prayers. So, if we want to continue to point fingers and play the blame game, perhaps it’s every parent’s fault for not encouraging their children to pray on their own throughout the day. Perhaps it’s the church’s fault for implying that prayer must be done in a group, led by a person who believes in god and in the effect of prayer.
Of course, I don’t actually think either of those groups are to blame for these acts of violence. But I also don’t believe school shootings can be or would have been avoided if we had been allowing prayer in the public classroom. The shooter was not likely thinking “well, if they would have prayed this morning, I wouldn’t be going to shoot them today.” There is something much deeper happening within our society. And there was something happening in the shooter’s life that led to these events. More than likely, it had nothing to do with god, and god would not have been able to save those children because the shooter had free will, and had already decided there was no one to stop him. Unfortunately, this is the state of the world right now. There are horrible things happening, both in our nation and abroad, on a daily basis, whether people are praying to god or not. There are sick people, angry people, vengeful people, who believe there is no other way to deal with their problems. God can’t stop them all, just like god can’t and doesn’t stop bad things from happening, whether you’re praying or not.
Relying on god to solve all of our problems is one of the biggest issues I see with the argument that bringing god back into public schools would prevent these things from happening. No one is taking personal responsibility. Everyone is looking to point fingers at someone else. The believers are pointing at the atheists, telling the world that all of these things could be avoided if we simply allowed our children to be led in prayer every day. This is, frankly, our way of saying this is not our problem. It’s someone else’s fault. We haven’t turned our society into a greedy, selfish, unloving, uncaring world. Everything would be fine if we were a Christian nation, people! All our problems would disappear, things like this wouldn’t happen! We would be free from our selfish selves. Nevermind all the Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Mormons, Baha’i's, Buddhists, Hindus, and many, many others. Let’s make the executive decision to force one god, our Christian god, on everyone, and all our problems will disappear!
Right. Sorry, the world doesn’t work that way. If you are going to argue that we need to bring god back into the schools, then you also need to extend that argument to say that terrorists wouldn’t have flown into the World Trade Center and killed all those people if they had just prayed as a group before starting their work day. Many of them probably were praying, whether they normally would or not, as the events occurred. We have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t explain away our collective actions by using the excuse that we’ve turned away from god. Perhaps, we’ve turned away from ourselves, blaming everything and everyone but us for our problems. We need to step up and start making the changes we want to see in the world, and stop relying so heavily on god to make our lives perfect. There has always been evil, hatred, unrest, discontent, and disagreements in our world. We have to address those things ourselves, we can’t expect god to do it for us.