The horrific shooting which claimed the lives of three staff members and fourteen high-school students in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day was the first mass-shooting in America to gain international attention this year. However, it was by no means 2018's first mass shooting in a US school. It was, according to The Guardian, the eighth US school shooting to result in injury or death so far in 2018.
While the recent shooting in Florida has been this year's most deadly, in terms of the number of lives it claimed, it is part of a trend that can be traced back to the 1999 school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. Since then the perception of schools and universities as being 'soft targets' for shooters has kindled a change in emphasis in the debate surrounding gun control in America; a change that is as depressing as it is foolhardy, that of arming school teachers. And, as with any foolhardy idea, it takes a fool to champion it. Enter Donald Trump.
The idea of arming teachers is not a new one. Since the 1980s, federal laws surrounding gun attainment and ownership have grown increasingly lax throughout every US state, with, unsurprisingly, a correlative overall rise in firearm deaths over those years. As mass shootings have near exponentially increased in their severity, with three of the five deadliest mass shootings in US history - in terms of fatalities - having occurred within the last two years, one of the ideas for attempting to curtail the number of these shootings that occur on school and college campuses has been the idea of extending 'conceal carry' laws to teacher; under the name of federal 'campus carry' laws.
Colorado, in 2003, became the first state to permit 'campus carry', shortly followed by Utah. To date, some ten states have brought in 'campus carry' laws in direct response to the growing number of shootings that have taken place in educational institutions. The argument to allow teachers to carry weapons therefore seems to have gained some traction. In the wake of the Florida shooting however, it can truly be said to have become part of the mainstream discourse now that it counts Trump among the coterie on its bandwagon.
As is usual for Trump, a man who can reasonably be described as a rhetorical sluice for all the viler tendencies of the human soul, he made his feelings on the subject known through Twitter. In his series of Tweets he initially denies ever claiming to have supported the idea that teachers should carry weapons, claiming this to be the work of "Fake News CNN & NBC". He then immediately contradicts himself by explaining that he actually wanted to "look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience". In short, he doesn't want to 'arm teachers', what he actually wants to do is 'arm teachers'. It is classic Trump.
This also presents an astounding, almost admirable, example of cognitive dissonance. It represents the apogee one man's ability to simultaneously entertain the duality of conflicting ideas; one living organism holding two contradictory ideas which he posits simultaneously while somehow being unaware of the paradox of his own construction. It is a man having an argument with himself. It is the rhetorical equivalent of an elderly dog farting and then being surprised by its own fart; a singular organism working in conflict with itself.
I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
This latest Twitter tirade came in the wake of a listening session he held in the White House with survivors and relatives of those killed in the Florida shooting - and other U.S. shootings - where he initially lobbied his support for the idea to arm teachers. Now, I am under no illusions that there is any real point in writing this article as - as far as I am aware - the editorial opinion of the College Times has had very little impact in the shaping of U.S. domestic policy, but then again, they have also delegated executive power to the host of a reality television show, so who's to say that it never will.
The drive to arm teachers is not just a bizarre chicken-egg-esque misunderstanding of cause and effect. To respond to the problem of mass shootings by arming, ostensibly, the 'right people' to have to deal with any potential shooter is to glaringly ignore the fact that it is a problem borne of lax gun laws causing a proliferation in the availability of fire-arms. It is an attempt to deal with the result, not the cause of a problem. It would also put teachers in a position that is utterly unfair.
A BBC article concerning the subject of arming teachers - which had initially been poorly headlined and has since been slightly amended - had appeared on their website a couple of weeks prior to the Florida shooting and, in the fallout from the attack, had been widely shared and ridiculed for its title. The article itself described several initiatives, in states like Colorado, where 'campus carry' laws had been implemented and the massive psychological burdens they had placed on both students and teachers alike.
Given that the majority of school shootings are perpetrated by pupils, who've either recently graduated or are still attending the school in question, it forces armed teachers to view each of their students as possible enemies. This was laid clear in one especially harrowing section of the article which concerned a group of teachers participating in a three day firearm training course. One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she "decided to picture her favourite student during the preparation exercises, in an effort to harden herself to the worst possible eventuality."
The thought that a teacher is having to imagine shooting one of their own students in order to steel themselves to any possible eventuality is perhaps the greatest indictment of this ludicrous policy. Rather than unifying educational institutions in opposition to gun ownership, arming teachers evidently only succeeds in driving a wedge between the staff and students, making neither feel safe; making neither feel welcome in the presence of the other. A teacher's merits should be solely judged on how they handle relationships with their students; on their ability to handle complex algebra etc. and not on their ability, or otherwise, to handle a concealed firearm.