When I asked on social media about arming teachers, the response was overwhelmingly negative, partly because it involves guns, which are unpopular around Philly, and partly because President Trump suggested it, and he’s more unpopular around here than guns.
But once you get away from here, the idea isn’t that unpopular. A CBS poll last week showed that 44 percent of Americans favor arming teachers and administrators. At least eight states allow teachers to be armed.
So is the idea really that horrible?
Yes, says Jerry Jordan, president of Philadelphia’s teachers’ union, who is “very strongly opposed” to guns in school, any guns.
“I’m a product of the Philadelphia schools, and I never felt unsafe,” Jordan tells me.
I am a product of the New York City school system, and I also never felt unsafe — but Jerry and I attended school before students were shooting Glocks or shooting dope.
Every local teacher I reached on Facebook said no to the idea. Neither the Philadelphia School District nor the Philadelphia Archdiocese wants its teachers armed.
A safer way to thwart school shooters is to lock and strengthen all school doors, have just one door designated for visitor entry and secured by an armed guard.
But the idea of arming teachers has been raised, so here are my thoughts on how that should look:
- No teacher would be forced to carry, all firearms would be concealed, the names of armed staff would be confidential.
- Teachers would use their personal firearms, with which they were familiar.
- Before being permitted to carry, teachers would undergo physical and mental testing.
- Police would provide mandatory weapons training and active shooter training.
- Teachers would not seek the shooter, but would observe the protocol of “Run, Hide, Fight.”
But when it is fight — in a kill-or-be-killed situation — they would have lethal force.
Let’s use our imagination.
Scenario No. 1:
With the alarm clanging and the sound of gunfire outside her classroom, the teacher directs her students into a storage closet, closes the door, and turns out the light.
The closet door swings open and she sees the gunman, rifle in hand. He shoulders his weapon as the teacher raises her hands in a defensive gesture. The force of a bullet throws her back against the children. The gunman fires again at the teacher and then turns his weapon on the students trapped in the closet.
Scenario No. 2:
When the closet door swings open and she sees the gunman, the teacher fires. The gunman falls, hit once in the chest and once in the neck. The teacher and students run from the closet.
Matt Pinsker, who teaches Homeland Security and Criminal Justice at Virginia Commonwealth University, tells me that armed teachers “will deter school shootings.” He says almost all mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones” where victims are defenseless. The threat of armed teachers would discourage some attacks, he believes.
But there are concerns, raised by people on social media. In the more dreadful ones, teachers tell me they don’t trust many of their peers with guns, while others worry that the weapons might be grabbed by students or increase the chance of accidents. Others fear that SWAT teams would mistake teachers for shooters.
The concerns are valid, but when the choice is to kill or be killed, do you want the teacher to be unarmed?