Will more guns and armed teachers protect students?

A friend overheard her second grader instructing playmates huddling under a climbing structure at their local playground, “You’re in lockdown. If you come out, the bad man will shoot you.”

This is morning in America where parents pray their child’s school doesn’t become the next scene of a mass shooting by an angry young man with a semi-automatic weapon, where children practice hiding under their seats and in closets, and teachers wonder if today’s the day they’ll be asked to throw themselves between their students and a shooter.

Seventeen students died in the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fl. Their deaths have inspired teens nationwide to speak out, demand better of Washington and organize school walkouts to protest weak gun laws.

I spent many years writing about gun deaths as an AJC editorial writer. And I heard over and over the flood of guns and lack of any real regulations were not to blame. I was told Americans are more violent than people of other nations. We are more diverse and thus more likely to have conflicts.

But all those explanations were not borne out by the data. Americans are not more violent than people in other countries. We just have far greater access to lethal weapons.

And so do our children.

Research makes it clear our insistence that firearms be freely bought and owned with no real controls is why we lead in gun deaths, a terrible distinction being paid for by children in body bags. Consider this Facebook post by the uncle of a girl killed in Florida last week.

On Wednesday, Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety will come to the Georgia Statehouse for their annual lobbying day. They will likely get platitudes rather than action from a Georgia Legislature that loves its guns and its contributions from the gun lobby.

Advocates at the Capitol tomorrow are likely to be told there are other solutions to protecting our children from school shootings, including arming teachers.

Floyd County school board member Jay Shell sparked discussion with this Facebook post calling for armed educators in schools:

Sadly, school shootings have gotten way to common. As a Floyd County Board member, but MOSTLY as a parent, I feel we must act NOW rather than wait and react later. Our top priority is to protect our children. On Tuesday morning we have a called board meeting and on the agenda is discussion about school safety. I know this may not be a popular idea for many of you but I feel it’s time that we find a way to arm our schools. 

1. Hire officers to be at EVERY school at all times. This would be my top thought but I just don’t think our budget could make this happen. 

2. Partner with our local law enforcement agencies to train our educators on how to use firearms. I think we could find 5 or even more volunteers at each school that have classrooms on different wings of our schools that could do this training. Complete psychiatric evaluations and complete firearm training. I don’t think we would even tell anyone which teachers are the ones involved. But we’d always know they are there. I don’t picture these educators openly carrying the weapons. Maybe have them locked in a hidden safe that they could get to quickly if ever needed? 

I know a lot of you will not agree that we need guns in our schools. But how else do we stop an active shooter? We need certified and trained personnel that can fire back to protect our children. It is sad that it’s come to this. Hopefully folks knowing that there’s staff that are trained and have weapons would even deter this terrible behavior? 

The fact is – we will never stop all evil in the world. Some will always find a way to hurt the innocent. But we have to be prepared. I truly feel it’s time we find a way to fight back if that evil ever strikes our children here in Rome/Floyd County. 

The notion of an armed civilian ending a mass shooting is wishful thinking. There are instances where “a good guy with a gun” stopped an attack, but those efforts are rare, especially in light of the nearly 34,000 gun deaths each year in the United States and the 74,000 people hurt and maimed in shootings.

In a mass shooting with streams of terrified students running for their lives, it’s hard to pinpoint where the shots are coming from and even harder to be sure your return fire will fell the perpetrator and not three freshmen crossing in front of him in a dash for survival.

More guns in a room don’t assure safety. Even presidents and popes, protected by armed guards, have been shot, as illustrated by an annotated photo of President Ronald Reagan seconds before he was shot in 1981. Reagan was surrounded by armed Secret Service agents as well as police officers.

Many teachers are taking to social media to fight suggestions to arm educators, pointing out politicians haven’t cared there’s not enough money for copy paper or pencils in schools, but now want to fund bullets and guns.

A teacher friend looped me into a question she raised on Facebook about this issue, which surfaces every time a deadly school shooting occurs.

I wanted to share some of the responses:

-I can't work an LCD projector, much less a gun. A gun in my possession in a school would jeopardize the safety of everyone in the building- 

-To be clear, I am a pretty good shot and don’t think a gun in my possession would make kids any safer. Teachers should not be armed. 

-Some are suggesting that the people that chose a profession to teach and care for and love children are supposed to be the ones to take them out? I don’t think I’d be able to shoot a kid, either. But then, if I’m protecting other innocent kids, that might change. 

-I keep thinking about all of the police officers who've shot school-age people because they felt threatened. These are trained pros who signed up for law enforcement. Yet we think putting guns in the hands of the millions of people who signed up to open ketchup packets and identify comma splices is a good idea? 

- I'd carry my firearm to school, but it would be better to give more funding so that we could have several officers in each building (not one officer for six schools) and install metal detectors and more cameras.