EDITORIAL: Arming teachers makes schools more dangerous, not safer

By Editorial Board

A student opens their backpack on the first day of school to find textbooks, highlighters and pencils. Somewhere in a classroom, a teacher opens their desk drawer to find a gun. 

This may become our reality. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is considering allowing states to use federal funds to buy guns for educators, as reported Aug. 22 by The New York Times. Because weapon purchases are not specifically prohibited in the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, states may be able to use these grants to buy guns for teachers as a precaution against school shootings.

The idea was promoted after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, and again after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. According to an Aug. 23 Vox article, the National Rifle Association believes that arming teachers will  keep students safe. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said during a Dec.12, 2012, NPR interview, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

Can we assume every teacher is a good guy? Can we assume bringing guns into a classroom will make classrooms safe? Putting guns in schools will not solve our problems. It will make them worse.

According to a May 2018 study by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, there are higher risks of homicide in areas with more guns. There is not any research proving arming teachers is beneficial.

Teachers already deal with the burden of low salaries, long hours and heavy workloads. We should not give them more responsibilities, especially the responsibility of a gun. We cannot assume teachers will be able to handle that, nor should we expect them to.

Beyond the strain on teachers, possessing and carrying a gun in school can cause a power imbalance between students and teachers. A study about gun violence conducted between 2008 and 2016 by Annals of Internal Medicine shows that black men were more likely to die in homicides involving guns than white men. This can cause people of color to be scared and uncomfortable in situations where authority figures such as teachers are armed. Schools should be a welcoming environment. Weapons drastically change that.

Also, using federal funds to purchase weapons is extremely problematic as schools nationwide struggle to purchase school supplies. According to a May 2018 New York Post article, public school teachers spend an average of $480 of personal money on school supplies per year.

Instead of purchasing weapons, federal money should be used to improve counseling services, create safety education programs and improve campus security.

Students should use their voices to advocate for change. Call local representatives. Be informed on the candidates and, most importantly, vote.