How Do We Reduce Gun Violence in America’s Schools? Not With More Guns
In the wake of recent mass shootings, Florida became one of the many states that are allowing their teachers to carry firearms in school. In 2018, the Guardian Program, established in response to the then-recent deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, was created to allow certain Florida school staff to carry guns in schools. In May 2019, the Florida State House proposed to extend the scope of this program to teachers as well. Pleas from Democrats to consider the risks of allowing teachers to carry guns fell on deaf ears. After months of heated and emotional debate, the proposal became law in October.
The rationale of the Republicans who participated in this vote reflect a common belief of many in the GOP: to reduce mass gun violence in America’s schools, fill them with more guns. This is by no means an oversimplification of their beliefs; President Trump and his party have jumped to this simple conclusion without ever paying lip service to its possible drawbacks. Could it stop a few school shootings? Possibly, but not enough to put a dent in the problem we face. Furthermore, the negatives of this idea vastly outweigh the positives and set a dangerous precedent for America and its culture. Arming teachers with guns, despite the intention to protect children, would not only be inefficient in reducing gun violence in schools but put students and our cherished American values in greater danger as well.
One facet of the counter-productivity of arming teachers with guns proves its inefficiency: a high connection between a country’s number of guns and its number of gun deaths. According to a United Nations study, America is home to over 270,000,000 firearms (that means an average of — no kidding — 88.8 firearms out of every 100 people) and, coincidentally, has the highest rate of gun-related deaths in the world (29.7 firearm homicides per 1 million people). The rate of gun deaths in the runner-up country makes up about a third of that number. The conclusion, based off of this concrete evidence, is simple but clear: more guns leads to more gun-related deaths. Given this fact, we have little to no good reason to put our schools in the presence of more guns.
Many suppose that filling schools with guns will reduce gun violence in schools because it will deter potential school shooters. However, the opposite is true: the mere presence of guns is bound to make humans more aggressive. This phenomenon is known as the “weapons effect.” The effect was first discovered by Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage in 1967 through an experiment consisting of 100 male university students. All of them were told that they would receive, randomly, either one shock or seven shocks by a peer. Afterwards, they were told they could administer as many shocks to their peer as they wanted. Here’s the interesting part: of the 100 participants, a third were in the presence of a rifle and a revolver. In addition, half of them were told the weapons belonged to their peer, and half were told otherwise (though this ultimately had little to no effect in the outcome). The other two thirds were in the presence of either 2 badminton rackets or no objects at all. The results confirmed Berkowitz and LePage’s hypothesis: the greatest number of shocks came from participants who were in the presence of the guns. Since then, this study was successfully replicated 56 times.
This phenomenon proves to be a critical testament to the implications of trying to solve gun violence with more guns. Students, especially those at an impressionable age, could become more aggressive in school. The presence of guns would have worse effects on teachers, who are not trained to keep their cool when chaotic situations arise. Those who would perhaps be most impacted by allowing teachers to be armed at school are be minorities. Institutionalized racism has not, in fact, disappeared since the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement. Minority students in America are still punished disproportionally. According to data collected by the Department of Education, African American students, who make up 15 percent of the student body, make up 35 percent of the students who receive one suspension and 44 percent of those who are suspended more than once. Allowing racist teachers to carry guns would most likely increase the lethality of their discrimination.
People who push for arming teachers have probably not considered how arming teachers reflects American society. When schools arm teachers, they place an unnecessary burden on them: they would be obligated to become the “first responders.” When the Florida legislature discussed proposal of allowing schools to arm teachers, Republican Representative Byron Donalds of Naples argued a similar point: “…the one thing that we have to acknowledge — as unfortunate as it is — is that when a psychotic person enters a facility, a school… the first responders, the real first responders, are the school staff that love our children.” It is true that teachers tend to be the first responders in such situations. However, this does not imply that a teacher, who is trained mostly in the profession of teaching children, should not be responsible for taking down armed intruders. That’s the police’s job. Furthermore, people seeking to become teachers would be discouraged from entering into the profession out of fear that they will not be capable of protect their students with guns.
Teachers, with regard to their jobs, are exactly what they’re called and nothing else: teachers. Children should not come to school thinking they are unsafe without guns and that their teachers are their body guards. It’s been said many times but cannot be stressed enough: school is a place of learning, not guns. In addition to proving inefficient and dangerous, arming teachers would demonstrate our lack of faith in our security guards and police officers. If we cannot trust our law enforcement to make even our children feel safe, how can we call ourselves a proud and free nation?