Education

Trump's gun control policy: Should teachers be armed?

In a horrifying incident, a teenager walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas School, Parkland, Texas, took out an assault rifle and began shooting. When he finished, he dropped the AR-15 rifle and his vest and ran with the students, blended in and escaped. Once outside, he bought himself a drink at a subway and food at MacDonald’s. The police caught up with him when he came out. Nikolas Cruz, 19, had shot dead 14 students and three others and injured 16. He had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons.”

Investigation revealed that the FBI agents were warned five months ago about a YouTube message from Nikolas that said, “I’m going to be a professional school-shooter.” The sheriff’s office had received 20 calls mentioning the names of Nikolas and his brother. The FBI conducted database reviews, checks, but was unable to identify the person behind the comment. Case closed.

The Parkland shooting is the 17th incident of gunfire in American schools and the eighth school-shooting resulting in injuries this year. It is also the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed 20 children and six adults. On 20 April, 1999, two teen students had opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 13 people and wounding 20 others.

Discussions and debates follow after every such horrific incident. Gun-culture is condemned. Cries of “Ban semi-automatic assault rifles and accessories”, “Need background checks for those buying assault rifles!” and “Why not body-check people entering the school?” are heard.

President Donald Trump has floated a “new” solution. He tweeted: “Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Must be firearms adept and have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big and very inexpensive deterrent.” Once teachers go for training and carry “concealed” guns, there will be no gun-free zones. He argued: “It takes five to eight minutes for the police to come in, so the attack is over. If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.” Andrew McDaniel, a State legislator in Missouri added: In rural schools it may take 20/30 minutes for law enforcement to respond to a school shooting. It makes sense to have other armed citizens ready to step in.

Parents and teachers the world over are aghast. “Rather than arming (teachers) with a firearm, I would arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening,” said Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old died in the Sandy Hook shooting.

Ridiculous

A group of volunteer teachers responded: “It's ridiculous to put guns in the hands of anyone,” said Vidya KP, who teaches at CPS, Venkatapuram and CPS, Jones Road. “If my neighbour is a school teacher and I know he/she owns a gun, I'd definitely be afraid to walk into their house as freely as I do now. Giving somebody a gun is giving them the licence to kill. It defeats the purpose of education. We solve problems through debate, discussion, negotiations and non-violence. Giving guns to teachers is delegating weapon-hoarding to another group.”

“No true teacher can kill a child!”, said Jayaprabha who teaches at CHS, Taramani. “Why not give pepper/water guns to distract the attacker? School can beef up security measures, create awareness in children on behavioural change and get feedback from classmates. Putting teachers under pressure to guard against gun misuse will reduce their efficiency, shift focus from bonding with kids.”

Charu Govindan, one of the organisers of the “Volunteer for Teaching” movement is appalled. “Do teachers have to carry guns along with daily lesson plans? Crazy!” she said. “When I heard a section of people is for it, I was shocked. We can’t get more guns to control the gun-culture, especially in educational institutions! Schools are the first community space for kids when they step out of their homes - it’s the basis of humanity, a place where they learn about trust, inter-dependence in life. Seeing a gun in the hands of teachers would crash their trust in the society.” Make gun-owning policies stricter, appoint counsellors to watch, listen and help troubled kids. “No guns to teachers, period.”

Experiment

VS Prakash, who teaches yoga, takes a pragmatic view. He agrees you cannot stop violence with weapons, but “in the current scenario, we all know whoever heads U.S. Armaments will have the last word.” In that context, a gun with someone level-headed can help save many from someone with a gun who is berserk. “It is an experiment.”

A plan that prevents ordinary citizens from bearing guns is ideal, said Venkatanarayanan, K, volunteer teacher at Maduvankarai. However, it’s not an immediate or even a long-term solution. Trump's reasoning that the quickest deployment of forces at the time of shooting is very sound. “I won’t be surprised if this becomes effective.”

Oh, spare teachers, entreats Srikala Ganapathy. Violence for violence only multiplies hatred and harm. Aim for safety programmes and violence-prevention policies in educational institutions. Teachers have to mould children into thinking right.

I leave the last word to Vidya Pradhan, who lives in the U.S. “As a parent and a long-time volunteer in classrooms, I can’t begin to describe what a ridiculous idea it is to arm teachers. When armed and trained sheriff's deputies stationed at the high school in Parkland feared for their lives and did not engage with the shooter, what makes anyone think teachers would be better at keeping their kids safe from a semi-automatic weapon that can fire hundreds of bullets in seconds? Are our schools to become war zones? As Lita Blanc, president, San Francisco teachers’ union put it, “If you’re going to arm educators, arm us with books, arm us with smaller class-size, arm us with fully-funded classrooms.”

“Mainstream media in the U.S. and all around the world have been commenting and analysing this absurd suggestion for the last few days. The real issue is keeping weapons of mass destruction away from the public. Luckily the youth in this country and in our schools have had enough and are fighting for better gun laws and reduced gun access.

Let us be at least as smart as our teenagers.”

Googling shows a dozen attacks on teachers by students in schools across India. How many of you teachers would like to carry a killer knife to school?


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 3:41:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/trumps-gun-control-policy-should-teachers-be-armed/article23028417.ece

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