by Brian Howey

Brian Howey

The post-massacre cycle in the U.S. has become cliché: there’s anguish and fear, moments of silence, and memorials. Politicians point fingers while the stricken victims bury their children, friends, and colleagues. Then, after our ever-shrinking attention spans falter, the issue dies out and we forget.

Until it happens again. And again. And again.

The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was tragic, but even more disheartening is that these massacres are becoming normal, and the response grows more spineless with each shooting.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University shortly after the Florida shooting shows that 66 percent of the American public — including 50 percent of American gun owners — want stricter gun laws. But since the Columbine shooting in 1999, gun proponents (with Trump as their new sheriff) have rallied to add more guns to the equation. Arming teachers, they say, is how we will now protect our students.

The lack of logic is terrifying.

Scot Peterson, a sheriff’s deputy who was present during the Florida school shooting, allegedly hid outside the school while the shooter murdered 17 people inside. Peterson was an armed, trained, professional whose duty it was to protect the children inside.

His presence did not deter the shooter from his murderous act. If he failed to do his job, isn’t it reasonable to say that many teachers — whose job it is to teach rather than to kill — may also falter at the idea of confronting an active shooter?

Most of the school shootings since Columbine were perpetrated by students — current or former — of the targeted school. It’s unreasonable to expect teachers, notoriously underpaid, yet dedicated to the advancement of their students, to kill one or several of them, even if they are active shooters.

Teachers are extremely influential in the next generation’s chance of success, and most Americans (as much as 60 percent, according to a 2017 Education Next poll) think they’re underpaid. U.S. teachers are paid less than 60 percent as much as similarly educated Americans, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported last year.

These numbers aren’t thrilling for prospective educators who soon may have to consider that their job description includes killing a gun-wielding child.
In a capitalist economy, pay isn’t just a dollar amount — it’s a measure of respect. We don’t pay our teachers enough to teach kids, much less shoot them. 
How can Trump, or any other proponent of arming teachers, expect this of our poorly paid educators? And since when is it the teacher’s responsibility to fix this problem? Teaching students is a teacher’s job, not protecting them from murderers.

A survey released last year from the Department of Education reports that 80 percent of teachers are white. According to the US Census Bureau, the American police force is 78.7 percent white. I generally have a much higher opinion of teachers than I do of police, but I think it’s safe to say that some teachers are racist.

Do you see where I’m headed?

Armed teachers would likely produce the same effect as giving guns to the 1.1 million police officers in the United States: more murdered Black people. Instead, we should be working to prevent gun violence in the first place, so teachers don’t have to worry about shooting or being shot by a child when they go to work.

Gun control makes sense, and a glance at nations with comparable development and income levels to ours proves it. Countries like the UK have strict gun laws, and the gun-related death rates in those countries reflect that. Americans are 51 times more likely to die from gunfire than British citizens, according to OECD data from 2010. In Japan, the gun-related death is equivalent to an American’s chance of being killed by lightning — about 1 in 10 million, according to the New York Times.

To add more guns to an already convoluted equation is a laughable solution to a serious problem. It’s time, instead, to put real pressure on policy-makers to restrict gun ownership in America.

Gun nuts: Your right to a gun isn’t worth our lives, and arming teachers doesn’t help us.

Brian Howey is co-editor-in-chief of the Laney Tower.