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5 Reasons Why Arming Teachers is the Worst Idea Lawmakers Have Ever Proposed

Governor Rick Perry thinks the problem of mass shootings can be solved with guns, more guns and...he can't remember the third thing.

Governor Rick Perry thinks the problem of mass shootings can be solved with guns, more guns and…he can’t remember the third thing.

I have a question for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, State Rep. Mark McCullough of Oklahoma, State Rep. Dennis Richardson of Oregon, State Rep. Betty Olson of South Dakota and all the other (mostly Republican) lawmakers who have publicly voiced their support for arming school teachers:

Are. You. Out. Of. Your. Fucking. Minds?!!!

It’s one thing for these Second Amendment enthusiasts to balk at the very real threat of tougher gun laws being passed in the wake to the Newtown shootings. It’s another thing entirely to look at the specifics of that shooting (or of ANY mass shooting) and think than any of those situations could have been improved by more flying bullets fired by untrained individuals. You know, because that usually ends well. Especially with CHILDREN literally in the crossfire.

Before this post disintegrates into me shouting ‘What the HELL are you thinking?’ at digital images of the aforementioned lawmakers, let me establish a plan. I’m simply going to list my top five reasons why arming schoolteachers is a stupid, asinine, ill-conceived, arrogant, short-sighted, and (perhaps deliberately) distracting “solution” to the very real problem of mass shootings in this country. Then I’m going to go hug my daughter.

Teachers are not Navy SEALs, Special Forces, or SWAT Officers. They’re teachers. Perhaps these lawmakers have been swayed by action movies that depict heroes who can neutralize bad guys with two or three expertly targeted shots to the chest without harming a single bystander but it simply does not work that way in real life. Even with training, the emotion of a tense situation can dramatically affect a person’s ability to shoot at and hit a specified target. Police officers, federal agents, and military personnel with decades of experience hit and kill bystanders in standoffs with alarming regularity. Do really we think a schoolteacher with a roomful of terrified minors will have the concentration, focus and sheer luck to shoot the bad guys and ONLY the bad guys? For a recent example of this look no further than the August 2012 incident at New York’s Empire State Building where NYPD officers pursuing a suspect shot and wounded nine bystanders before killing the actual shooter.

Guns aren’t always used on their intended targets. The teacher who carries a gun into a school to protect themselves or their students may have the best intentions but it ultimately may not be up to them how that gun is used. Nancy Lanza bought her guns to protect herself and while we don’t know precisely what she wanted to protect herself from, we seriously doubt she envisioned what her son would ultimately do with them. The same is true for the father in Western Pennsylvania who accidentally shot his seven year old son to death in the parking lot of a gun store this November. He was simply trying to put his gun away when it fired. Similarly a teacher would not foresee a situation wherein he or she is overpowered by an intruder, a coworker, or even a student for a gun or one where the gun accidentally fires and hits an innocent bystander. For a firearm to be useful as protection, it needs to be accessible to the user. But how, in a crowded school, is a firearm going to be both accessible to the user and secure from everyone else?

Guns in schools complicate emergency situations for actual law enforcement officers. Picture this: an elementary school is in lockdown. The local SWAT team is called in to “neutralize” an armed intruder. There are five adults on the premises with firearms drawn, one or more of them may be teachers. How is law enforcement supposed to figure out who the intruder is? Remember, these incidents happen fast. Split seconds fast. What is the likelihood that this situation doesn’t end with one or more dead teachers?

Students may not respect or fear guns; they may see them as toys or movie props. All the lawmakers who have proposed arming schoolteachers and/or allowing teachers to carry their own weapons have stressed that said teachers would be “trained” in the use of firearms and would therefore pose no threat to the children. Really? Have they met children? Have they seen news stories about children of all ages getting shot playing with guns? In every classroom in every school in America, there are children who simply do not understand what guns can do. Their concept of guns may come from movies, television, or (more likely) video games. This is what they know about guns: if you get shot you hit the “restart” button and try again, hopefully firing faster than your digital opponent. To them a gun in a classroom might seem cool. It may be something that are irrevocably drawn to: to touch, to try to take apart, to hold, perhaps so they can emulate someone or something they’ve seen. Again, a gun kept accessible for the teacher may be easily accessible by a curious student. And in the upper levels of middle or high school, when the students grow to be almost the physical equal of their teachers, what stops a student from taking a teacher’s gun by force? Then what?

A teacher trying to use a gun in an emergency focuses on him/herself and the gun and not on the students. The lawmakers who propose arming teachers or permitting teachers to carry their personal weapons paint a picture in which a teacher with a gun learns of an intruder, retrieves his or her weapon and uses it on the intruder thus preventing unnecessary bloodshed. Simple, right? But is that really how it would play out? And in this scenario, who exactly, is focusing on the students? Who is making sure the youngest students are remaining calm and quiet, helping them hide, getting them to more secure locations, and doing any of the other truly heroic things that the teachers in the Newtown shooting did that saved the lives of children? A teacher who is armed at the direction of the school district or state has split priorities: eliminate the threat and protect the children. Can we really expect them to do both? Isn’t a teacher holding a weapon and looking out for a gunman inevitably focused on that first and the children second? For the last time, teachers are teachers, not law enforcement. If you want safer schools, focus on funding better law enforcement and passing better laws, do not add to the list of things a teacher needs to do in an unimaginable crisis.

These are my top five reasons. There are likely many more reasons that you can come up with, given that you might be slighter calmer than I am at this given moment. I’ve been in constant state of stunned/enraged disbelief that any lawmaker who has actually been in an American public school could possibly think this is a good idea. Perhaps that’s the problem? Have the lawmakers who’ve proposed these laws actually visited schools? Talked to teachers? To law enforcement? To parents?

As the mother of a middle schooler, the wife of a high school teacher, and a school volunteer, I’m in and out of school buildings almost every week day. I want them to be safer. We need them to be safer. Putting more deadly weapons into them will not, I repeat, not achieve that.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


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Messing With Texas, By Way of Galway

"There's four things I wanna do to bring an end to abortion... One, make it illegal... Two, uh... hmm... uh... oops."

“There’s four things I wanna do to bring an end to abortion… One, make it illegal… Two, uh… hmm… uh… oops.”

by Siobhan Carroll
WRUN Contributor

Hello dear readers! It has been a while. Like many of you, I suffered mightily from a post-election hangover and needed a month or so to recover. A trip to Ireland, copious amounts of turkey and one Christmas tree later, I have returned just in time for Rick Perry to remind us all why he is (thankfully) not president.

For me this story doesn’t start in Texas. It starts several thousand miles away in the Dublin hotel my husband and I were staying in when we sat down for breakfast and I perused the paper. Savita. A name we would hear almost constantly throughout the next several days of travels. W:RUN did a fantastic job of covering this story from afar, but for those who are not aware, Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant, miscarrying and in pain when she requested an abortion. She was denied said abortion by doctors in her Galway hospital because the fetus still had a heartbeat and “Ireland is a Catholic country”, according to her husband. Savita contracted an infection and died of sepsis, an avoidable outcome had a timely abortion been performed and appropriate antibiotic measures been taken. She was a wife, a daughter, a dentist in her adopted homeland- a productive and loved member of society.

I am an Irish American. This trip to the motherland was the 7th time I’ve gone over in less than 20 years. Much has changed in recent years-as my husband noted that “there isn’t a cross on every street corner now”- but Ireland is still very much a catholic country, and the church still wields enormous influence. This is a nation where divorce was forbidden in the Constitution. (What would Rush Limbaugh have to say about that?) It was only repealed by referendum in 1996 and even then by less than a percentage point. One better, you need to have lived apart from your spouse for 4 of the last five years to even begin the divorce process. The populace has responded by simply not getting married- the Irish Examiner reports that marriage rates in 2011 were the lowest in a decade, and the average age of marriage was 38 for men and 31 for women. In the US it was 29 and 26, respectively. This is an extraordinary illustration of how attempts to legislate people’s lives can backfire and result in unintended consequences.

After that breakfast (I know, that was a lot of information in between but you read my stuff for its entertaining and informative quality, not its brevity) my husband and I headed west from Dublin to visit Galway, my favorite place in Ireland if not the world. It’s about a two hour drive through lovely countryside and myriad unimpressed sheep. The radio occasionally played music (if you consider One Direction “music”) but the Irish are talkers and so much of the stations were discussing the news of the day, which was Savita. When we initially set out the DJs would stumble over her Indian last name, but they got so much practice so quickly it soon rolled off the tongue like marmalade.

The outrage was palpable. The only reason Savita’s death was made public was because her husband went to the press when a proper investigation was not launched. He has expressed concerns about the impartiality of the experts, two of whom are staff doctors at NUI Galway hospital, where Savita was treated and ultimately died. This is a nation that has elected two female presidents, legalized divorce, seen an incredible rise in economic opportunities for women since 1990, and yet a young woman was allowed to die because of an archaic attitude towards women’s health.

The day after the news broke, we were making our way up a treacherous switchback (think Lombard Street in San Fran but with cows instead of houses) on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. The only station that was coming in clearly was a call-in radio show discussing the Halappanavar case. I heard three women (one named Siobhan) describe how placing the life of an unborn fetus above that of it’s mother impacted their lives. One woman was denied painkillers and a diagnostic x-ray as she agonized through the pain of an undiagnosed bowel obstruction, on the pretense that either intervention might harm her fetus. Her bowel eventually burst, her daughter was born premature and died as a result of exposure to bacteria in the womb. Her mother lost part of her intestine, saw her daughter alive for only moments before they were separated, and slipped into a deep depression from which neither she nor her marriage recovered. Siobhan’s fetus had been diagnosed with a “genetic condition incompatible with life” and yet could not abort her pregnancy as long as the unborn child had a heartbeat. She and her husband traveled to Liverpool for the procedure, and returned with the cremated remains of their son as some sort of ghastly souvenir. The last story I heard was a woman in similar circumstances, as her fetus also suffered a significant genetic issue. Rather than travel abroad to abort she carried her child to term, having to explain to friends, family, coworkers and strangers who were overjoyed for her the sorrowful news that her baby would not survive outside her womb.

There were candlelight vigils held in memory of Savita’s life, and rallies so that her death may not be in vain. This horrible experience may be what wrenches Ireland’s abortion policy into something resembling at least the 20th century.

We’ve been back since just before Thanksgiving, living the life that normal people with two kids, jobs, parents, and a weird cat live. Post-election I haven’t had too much to whine about- Barry won, Joe went to my local Costco, New Hampshire has declared it Lady Time- all good stuff.

And then goddamn Rick Perry had to open his mouth about abortion:

“I don’t think any issue better fits the definition of ‘compelling state interest’ than preventing the suffering of our state’s unborn.”

It’s totally okay to laugh. I laughed riotously for a while in an attempt to the keep the anger from inducing a stroke.

I will let you know if and when my blood pressure returns to normal. In the meantime, fuck you Rick Perry. I apologize for the profanity but it is the only appropriate response to this horseshit. The “unborn” are precisely that – unborn. They aren’t people, they don’t have consciousness, and science disagrees about when a fetus might even feel pain. You know what suffering is Rick? Being born into a family already struggling financially. Or being born only to suffer for a short time on earth. Or being a waking, talking reminder to your mother of a brutal attack. Or simply being unwanted. Or being a woman forced to continue a pregnancy that she, for any reason, does not want to.

This isn’t a game, this isn’t harmless rhetoric. This is about quality of life for women and their children, both born and unborn. Savita’s story and the anecdotes I’ve provided are a vivid and nauseating illustration of what happens when government interferes between a woman and her doctor. These aren’t abstract ideas or theoretical scenarios, these are real women faced with awful outcomes because their ability to choose what was best for them was taken away. On the other side of the coin, doctors shouldn’t be afraid to do their jobs responsibly for fear of going to jail.

I note with chagrined irony that the state most reputed for its fierce independent streak – its “don’t mess with us” sloganeering – may be ideologically trading places with a nation long considered backward by its neighbors. As Ireland progresses, will Texas regress? The Lone Star state indeed.