SAFE CHILDREN COME FIRST
Lately, people in the United States have been getting shot a lot more than they’d presumably like. The rate of gun homicides here is consistently higher than in other advanced countries, and while gun-related crime has actually decreased steadily over the past decade, multiple high-profile mass shootings have forced the issue to the forefront of national debate.
One particularly alarming statistic is the number of school shootings that have occurred since the Columbine massacre in 1999: 130, roughly half of which resulted in multiple casualties.
Saving the lives of children is a fairly high priority for those with souls, so naturally, a variety of plans to increase school security have been considered in recent months. One of the more pervasive of these plans has been bringing guns into schools, specifically by arming teachers to make them better able to deal with such threats.
Many are, understandably, extremely hesitant to implement such plans, fearing that the risks of accident or escalation would be increased as a result. Educators, however, have expressed their support for guns in schools.
According to the School Improvement Network, nearly 88 percent feel that an armed security guard would improve safety in their school. Legislation is beginning to follow the popular opinion, as the Department of Justice announced in December that it would be giving almost $45 million to fund new programs to place armed resource officers in schools.
The benefits of putting more guns into trustworthy hands is sure to have a preventative effect on potential shootings, as schools would no longer be such prime targets for shooters. The logic behind arming teachers recognizes that one armed guard can’t be everywhere at all times.
It also accounts for the fact that singling out a single individual as the school’s sole protector labels them as a clear target without which the building would be defenseless. Increasing the number of capable defenders present is sure to further dissuade violence and improve the chances of stopping an attack already underway.
The most obvious issue most critics have with this solution is the trustworthiness of allowing non-professionals to carry concealed weapons. This problem has been recognized by some of the few places that have already implemented laws of this type, and it has been addressed in a way that could serve as a model for other communities. Participating employees are required to complete 50-hour training programs, undergo recertification every 90 days, participate in further training every few weeks and be subject to mental evaluations.
With the proper precautions, training and arming people that can be trusted to do their very best in defending their students can only improve the safety of our schools.
Sam Williams is a freshman business and psychology major from Watertown, S.D.
DON’T ‘FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE’
Imagine yourself in 10 or 15 years, dropping off your child at school for the first time. You help them plan their outfit and get their backpack ready for class. Then they walk into their classroom full of colorful letters on the wall, buckets of crayons and paper, and Miss Smith in her decorative teacher outfit complete with a holster and a loaded pistol. Welcome to kindergarten.
Schools should be institutions of learning, and allowing teachers to carry firearms teaches kids the wrong lesson. Instead of explaining tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting or Columbine as a devastating but rare occurrence, students will grow up anticipating these horrors as normal, expected behavior.
The dangers of normalizing violence exist particularly in elementary schools. Children look to their teachers as authority figures almost on par with parents, and teachers hold a tremendous amount of influence in shaping young minds.
Students learn from their teacher’s example. If students recognize that carrying guns around is normal behavior for teachers, they will aspire to replicate that behavior.
They will also learn from a young age that the best answer to conflict is to fight fire with fire. Instead of teaching respect for life, teachers are demonstrating that the answer to stopping violence is to beat it down with more violence. So much for turning the other cheek.
With the depth and breadth of information available at the touch of a button, kids “these days” aren’t naïve to the tragedy and conflict in the world. Really, they don’t have to look past Facebook and Twitter to see that people just don’t get along.
However, schools should not be perpetuating this constant combative state of affairs by abiding by the rule of “better safe than sorry” when carrying guns.
Additionally, allowing firearms in schools places undue burden upon teachers who are already underpaid, underappreciated and ultimately unqualified to handle guns.
If teachers can’t figure out how to work PowerPoint, how on earth can they be expected to discharge a firearm? It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect them to hold the roles of both educator and defender.
It’s not unreasonable for parents to want their children to go to school in a safe environment, but school safety begins with education. Both teachers and parents can teach their children how to be safe without teaching them to live in a skewed state of paranoia that requires constant armament.
Elementary-aged children don’t need a gun to feel secure; they just need the comforting smiles and reassurances of their teachers. They also need to learn that violence is never the best solution. Adding more guns to the equation will only lead to more violence and tragedy, and we cannot afford to allow violence to become the norm in our schools.
Megan Raposa is a junior jounalism and business communications major from Rapid City, S.D.