I wrote a little while back that I would take no part in the conversation around the Newtown killings unless I saw a major shift in how we discussed these tragedies. At the time of my publishing that, I had seen nothing but the same inane bullshit that had followed the shooting in Aurora plastering the news and social media and I was as sickened by the sight of it then as I was before. To my astonishment, however, the conversation has taken a turn to a discussion about gun control, one that has been quite interesting to follow, and while I hold that those who think fixing the second amendment will solve the plague of mass killings in this country forever are hopelessly naive, I certainly grant that stricter gun control could have prevented at least a few of the mass killing we’ve seen (but certainly not all of them) and that this discussion of gun control is something that needs to happen. And so it seems, for the first time I can ever recall, that we are actually having an intelligent discussion about this problem.
To that end, there is one element of it that I cannot keep silent on and that is the barbaric suggestion that has been put forth by the NRA and numerous politicians on the right that the solution to this problem would be to arm teachers and/or principals. There are quite a lot of reasons why this is an absolutely terrible idea but I really feel compelled to bring up one flaw that I have not yet seen addressed, which is simply this: even if given the right to do so, there is absolutely no way in hell I, as a teacher, would ever even consider bringing a gun into my classroom.
I am pretty sure I am not alone in my profession on this. Educators lean largely to the left (and by the way, Republicans, you may want to think long and hard about why that is) and as such, would largely support the kind of gun control the NRA is trying to prevent with their ludicrous plan to let us have guns in the classroom. I’d be surprised if, in even a large school, you’d find more than one or two teachers willing to come to work armed and if a school shooting does happen, we’d all better hope they’re not on the other side of the school from where the massacre is playing out or that, even if the teacher is nearby, that he or she is a better shot than the gunman, because boy, won’t the NRA’s face be red if their brilliant plan only results in a teacher who died with a gun in his hand and a bullet hole in his head.
I won’t deny that there is a certain ironic pleasure in contemplating how much easier it would make my job if I could bring a gun to class. I would never again have to listen to a student complain that I grade unfairly or that they should be allowed to turn their paper in late. I wouldn’t even need to brandish the gun, just the knowledge that I have it would make them fear me where before I had to work hard to earn their respect. If I may paraphrase the NRA’s darling poster boy Dirty Harry: lots of people respect the teacher’s authority, but everyone respects the gun.
But the thing is, as a teacher who encourages free thought in his classrooms, I actually think a gun would give me a fair bit more authority than I actually want. How would a Glock on my hip or a shotgun leaning in the corner affect a student’s willingness to challenge me when I suggest a particular reading of a book or film as I so often do to try to facilitate discussion? I expect that, where I would in the past have started a debate, I will find instead a room full of nodding heads. “Yes, you with the gun, whatever you say must be right.” After all, silencing dissenters is one of the things guns do best.
But of course the suppression of free thought is not going to persuade anyone who is advocating for armed teachers. I doubt they’ve thought much about the implications of having armed teachers at all and that is because I have a sneaking suspicion that, even if such legislation were to pass, the people advocating for it know just as well as I do that very few teachers or principals will actually exercise the option to carry a gun to class and that that is exactly what they want.
Allow me to play out a rather horrid scenario. A gunman comes into my classroom and I, as unarmed as any of my students, am unable to do anything to stop it as he opens fire. However many of my students die or are wounded will be counted among the victims of the tragedy while those who survive will be witnesses to it. I, however, regardless of whether I am killed, wounded or left unscathed, will not be a victim or a witness; I will be the son of a bitch who could have stopped the killer if only I had opted to carry a gun with me. Never again will a school shooting be the fault of our gun laws. Instead it will be the liberal pinko teachers who are to blame for their failure to put a stop to it because none of those bastards will exercise their God-given right to bear arms. Meanwhile the NRA, who worked so tirelessly to put the power to stop these killings in our hands, will give a weary sigh as they throw up their hands and declare, “Don’t blame us! We’ve done everything we can but these damn teachers won’t cooperate with us.”
And why not blame the teachers? After all, we get blamed for so much else in this country. Declining test scores aren’t the fault of bad legislative decisions, it’s those lazy teachers who won’t get off their tenured asses and actually teach our kids anything. My child isn’t a spoiled brat because I’m a lazy parent: those damned teachers don’t establish any kind of discipline. Hell, they won’t even paddle my kid for me anymore. And let’s not also forget that, as a college professor, I’m brainwashing them into becoming atheists, communists and homosexuals (if only we would let Jesus back in the classroom!). Now the opportunity has presented itself to dump the blame for school shootings on teachers and the Right isn’t hesitating to take it. We are, after all, the perfect scapegoat.
Enacting stricter gun control laws are only a partial solution to the plague of mass killings that have infected this country but they are at least a step in the right direction. Arming teachers, however, will not only fail to prevent another school shooting, they’ll do more to enable them than the cycle of inane commentary that I discussed in my last posting. It will, however, let people keep their assault rifles, because you never know when you might need to overthrow the government, which apparently is what this country is all about.