Guns in School

No matter the security level (minimum, medium, maximum), prison guards working in close proximity of inmates are not allowed to carry a firearm. That means guards surrounded by sometimes the most violent of offenders are doing so unarmed. Though one may think this must be due to guards battling possible tempers (after all, prisoners have often been known to spit on, throw feces at, and generally bad mouth guards), that is far from the case. Prison guards (who have been trained with a firearm and know precisely how to use one), don’t carry firearms because it eliminates the possibility of gun deaths in the prison. Imagine how easy it might be for a group of 20 to 25 prisoners (let alone 120 to 125) to gather around a guard causing chaos and confusion while one of the prisoners in the group manages to get the guard’s weapon. Indeed this is an absolutely terrifying scenario.

Imagine, as well, the amount of responsibility one must feel carrying a firearm. Say you were a guard and were allowed to carry a handgun on your hip. You are now in charge of keeping all of the inmates in order, keeping an eye out in every direction, keeping track of the day’s schedule/events, monitoring the time, looking out for drugs or weapons in the prison, while simultaneously keeping vigilant track of the weapon holstered on your hip. There is a great lot of responsibility that goes along with such a task as carrying a firearm. This responsibility also connects directly to the psychological effects of working a job that requires you carry a firearm daily. In fact, police officers are often required to fill out “Use of Force” paperwork for simply pulling their firearm let alone using it. If an officer feels the need to use a firearm, they will more often than not speak with a certified police psychologist afterwards. In other words, carrying and using a firearm is an absolutely serious responsibility and can be quite nerve-wracking even for those comfortable and trained with their firearm.

I can recall taking my conceal and carry class quite vividly as it was my first real experience using a firearm of any kind. I may have fired a shotgun at some point with my family that lives in a stereotypical country setting, but other than that, I was 31 years old before I’d held and shot anything correctly and for an extended period of time.

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I live in Ohio, so a majority of the class was spent discussing the lack of “stand your ground” laws and how you are legally better off never using your weapon considering the unique “castle doctrine” Ohio imposes. You can open carry all you want (something like a cowboy), shoot dogs that bother you, leave your weapon out (as oppose to locked up in a safe when not on your person), but if you use your firearm in self-defense there’s a good chance you will be sued. The second facet of the class that marshaled a majority of the conversation: the constant reminding that if you were to ever pull your firearm out to use you’d better be ready to use it, which you won’t be, really, since you can’t train for a life or death situation without it being, well, life or death.

Consider that. Let’s say you are a fairly well trained marksman and you know your gun well. You know how it feels to pull it from the holster and fire it accurately as you spend a great lot of time at various shooting ranges. However, how much practice do you have pulling your weapon from your holster while adrenaline is coursing during the heat of a situation that called for the use of your firearm? Probably (and hopefully) never or — at best — very rarely. Side note: I am speaking from the point of view of a person who doesn’t carry a firearm specifically for his or her job at this point.

I remember the instructor reiterating this over and over. Just because you know how to use a gun doesn’t mean you will know how to or feel comfortablefiring it at another human being. Furthermore, you can’t be prepared for how you will feel after shooting another human being — potentially killing them. That was a serious part of the conversation during this training. If you pull your weapon, you are knowingly doing so with the intent to kill or seriously harm. That is quite a serious psychological undertaking for a course that takes maybe 20 percent of the time it would take to get a driver’s license. Point being, just because one may know how to use a gun doesn’t mean one knows how to use a gun under extreme pressure. There are plenty of stories of professionals pulling their firearm under duress and accidentally ejecting the magazine, or the gun didn’t “clear” the holster, or they fire the gun to early potentially harming themselves, etc. So much can go wrong even for those who train daily for a career that requires carrying a weapon for a living: like teachers…

Currently, there is a debate of sorts occurring in the public and probably private sphere regarding whether or not teachers should carry firearms in school. Of course, this debate is a direct response to the recent school shooting in Florida (and a more indirect response to the number of school shootings that have occurred in general). There is not a single part of this conversation that should be taken lightly, so if any of the following sounds cynical or flippant, that is my error in projecting an incorrect tone. That said, this notion of arming teachers is an absolutely alarming and ill conceived notion in which the positives couldn’t ever begin to outweigh the negatives. The issue isn’t whether or not a teacher could be trained to carry a firearm or something as clinical as licensing. The major issues adhere to responsibility and emotion.

Teachers — for the most part — took that position because they want to educate children and foster strong and healthy relationships. Teachers spend their days laughing, crying, disciplining, cleaning up trash, cleaning up bodily fluids, testing the constraints of their bladder, parenting, mentoring, listening, talking, evaluating, running therapy sessions, eating lunch in 5 or 10 minutes, then take all of that home with them to reflect and prepare for the next day with an average starting salary (in Ohio) of $33,000 (give or take). Now we are being asked to be well trained enough to carry a firearm as well in case we will ever need to kill a child. Not only that, but kill a child we have probably at some point taught and built a relationship with as school shooters are usually current or former students. This seems so unimaginable it’s hard to believe the current debate is not merely a fever dream we are waiting to wake up from.

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The long and short of it: putting more guns into a school is absolutely not the most effective means to lessen gun violence in schools; and teachers absolutely do not deserve to have that sort of responsibility or impetus put upon them because our government has yet to determine any other route issuing a net positive. Before we begin arming educators, bricking up windows, adding metal detectors, lining fences with barbed wire, and generally turn schools into actual prisons, let’s perhaps have a real discussion that will lead to real and positive results. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.