Should We Arm Teachers?

On February 12th, junior high students experienced a soft lockdown due to a threat of an armed suspect within proximity to Granite Park Junior High. The next day, a former Granite Park student was gunned down walking home from an alternative school not far from the junior high. Faculty were informed of his injury-related death the following day — Valentine’s Day. Later that same day, the nation mourned the loss of 17 students and teachers, murdered in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

February 15th, staff and faculty at Granite Park Junior High received an alarming email regarding the Florida shooting and safety procedures. The email included a lengthy description addressing the necessary steps faculty must take to protect students in the event of a shooting. As a precaution, the school brought in six heavily-armed police officers, ready to take appropriate action.

These series of events occurred in the span of a week at Granite Park located in Salt Lake City. Although the incidents occurred in a short amount of time, the enduring pain and recovery for all those affected will take much longer.

In the national conversation, the idea to arm our nation’s teachers in order to protect students — an idea that had not previously been taken seriously — turned into a real talking point following the shooting at Parkland. This came after President Trump tweeted:

“History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”

This proposal does not have any data to back up the statements and seems to lack rationality as well. What does “highly trained, gun-adept teachers/coaches” mean? How in the world is having more guns in the hands of more people supposed to solve the problem? What is the guarantee that having a school full of teachers with concealed weapons will deter a disturbed shooter from entering the premises?

To expect any educator to undergo training and bear the responsibility of storing a gun in the classroom is one matter. Any teacher could go online and purchase everything AR15 related without any hassle, but what concerns most is, to expect a teacher to react in a time of crisis with a calm, steady hand and clear mind, takes more than gun training, it takes law enforcement training.

To understand the extensive amount of training such a proposal would require, let’s look at what it takes to become a member of law enforcement.

In the state of Utah, police academies are modeled after military training programs where they endure intense and highly demanding situations, requiring candidates be in exemplary physical and psychological condition. During their time at the academy, candidates go through at least 800 hours of intense training, most of which are dedicated to firearm usage. Candidates are instructed in marksmanship and combat shooting techniques in addition to shooting range conduct, safety, and firearm maintenance.

Prior to becoming authorized, candidates must complete a qualification course. The course is developed with the philosophy that firearms are defensive weapons and that deployment of any firearm will most likely be in response to a threat. Therefore, candidates must possess more than marksmanship ability, they must be able to utilize their weapons with precision in high stress situations. The courses are designed to test the capability of a candidate in using handguns, rifles and semi-automatic weapons. Every stage of the qualification course has specific training considerations in which the candidate must prove to be proficient. To pass the course, candidates must have 80% shooting accuracy with a still or moving target with every firearm in the candidate’s possession.After graduating from the police academy, police officers are required to complete dozens of hours of training each year to remain “highly-adept”.

Officers go through training to protect the public so people like teachers can focus on what they are trained to do: educate.  Expecting any teacher to carry a gun places a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Expecting a teacher to stop, and possibly kill, a shooter is unfathomable. Especially with the risk of accidentally shooting a student.

Let’s say a teacher takes down a shooter. What emotional impact will that have? What if the teacher is a parent of three children, who has worked in education for 15 years as a second-grade teacher? The most violent thing they have done is gone to the shooting range or taken a kickboxing class. Then, in front of a room full of children, they take the life of someone else. How long will it take for that teacher to recover emotionally and psychologically?

Police officers go through suicide prevention because of the unbearable psychological stress associated with killing another human. Teachers should not have to do the same.

In other words, teachers should not be expected to take on the role of police officer and educator. Rather than focusing on adding more guns to the equation, the public should focus on how to increase other security measures in education systems and remove guns from the equation.

Teresa Bagdasarova is a policy intern with Alliance for a Better Utah.


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