The proposal made by President Donald Trump to arm teachers with guns is not only unfeasible, it would be worse than ineffective. What we need is a rational discussion of rational proposals.
Arming, training (and maintaining what would be the equivalent of the third-largest army in the world) would be a logistical and economic nightmare. There may be some teachers willing to carry guns, but the vast majority of teachers do not want guns in the classroom. Recruiting armed teachers would be difficult, a fact recognized by Trump who proposed a “bonus” for volunteers. Normal attrition of licensed and trained teachers means the cost would continue and grow every year.
Then there is screening volunteers, training them and securing their weapons. This would require hundreds of millions of dollars, and I don’t hear the gun manufacturers, or the NRA volunteering to pay for it.
There is also the issue of liability, though it is likely that the U.S. Congress would grant the schoolhouse gun-slingers immunity from charges for killing children. The Trump administration has already spent us into record deficits, and many school districts are in debt. The reality is that arming teachers would not prevent mass murders, and would actually increase gun violence in schools.
The proposal to arm teachers is based on an absurd premise. Proponents claim it would act as a deterrent. Most school shootings are perpetrated by emotionally unstable white men. Their impulse is not guided by rational calculus. They are driven by irrational emotions. They have no plan for escape. They are motivated by the need for revenge, public recognition or self-destructive impulses. Many of the schools that have experienced shootings already had armed guards, and that did not deter.
Arming teachers does not mean it would be an effective response to an active shooter. The military spends at least six months training recruits on the proper handling of weapons and effective responses on the battlefield, with additional training to avoid shooting innocent people.
Trump, in another ad lib argument against his own proposals, observed that one deputy had spent his “entire life” training for the situation and failed to respond as trained. This is a well known phenomena, and the reason why law enforcement trains incessantly.
So what would make a teacher, with virtually no training, respond more effectively? Virtually all of the people supporting arming teachers have never been on the wrong end of an assault rifle, and base their claims upon ignorance and bravado.
Handguns are much less accurate than a long rifle and have less capacity. Law enforcement officers support an assault weapon ban for good reason — they know that a handgun is no match in a firefight. So, even if a teacher does choose to engage a shooter, they would be firing a less-accurate weapon (around panicking children) with far less capacity and firepower.
Unless we want teachers wearing Kevlar body armor and slinging an assault rifle while they teach, the proposal is obviously ineffective. It puts teachers and first responders at greater risk. In the chaos of a gunfight who is the shooter?
Did you know that the Republican Congress has outlawed scientific research into gun violence? What little data that is available demonstrates that the presence of more guns in a community only increases the incidence of gun violence. Putting a million more guns in schools will only increase gun violence in schools. So, in addition to mass murders, we would also have more gun deaths in schools.
I am the son of a school teacher, and the father of three school-age children. All rational people want schools to be safe in every way possible. But we must use effective and safe methods to protect our children. Red Flag Laws, extensive background checks, closing Gun Show Loopholes, banning sales of weapons of war — are all proposals that would work, and that a large majority of Americans support.
If anything is worthy of being a one-issue vote, it is the safety of our children. Here’s a proposal to make schools safe: the next time a candidate asks for your vote, ask them if they will take money from the NRA. If they say “yes,” then tell them they will not get your vote.
Geoffrey Fieger is the lead attorney at Southfield-based Fieger Law.
This article originally appeared as an op-ed in The Detroit Free Press on March 9, 2018. Find it here.