Let's be honest about what arming teachers means: We expect them to kill students

Giving teachers guns is the worst idea in the history of public policy

A dark school hallway.
(Image credit: Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy Stock Photo)

Anyone who has bothered to suggest even the most straightforward and commonsensical of additional gun control measures has found himself browbeaten by well-catechized right-wing obfuscators. If you use the phrase "assault rifle," they pretend that this is a journalistic neologism rather than a precisely defined term. If you point out that it is far easier to prevent someone from getting a driver's license in this country than to deny him access to semi-automatic weapons, they pretend that in the modern United States being able to play dress-up with Rambo gear is a more fundamental "right" than being able to drive a car.

This is not to say that Second Amendment absolutists are unwilling to propose solutions of their own. Lately, they have fallen in love with the ludicrous notion, happily promoted by President Trump, that in order to prevent massacres like the one in Parkland, Florida, we must ensure that as many of our teachers as possible carry guns in their classrooms. I would call this "Swiftian," because it is certainly worthy of the Dean of St. Patrick's satirical art, but as far as I am aware its proponents are absolutely sincere in their view that every classroom in this country should be considered the potential scene of a Wild West shootout.

This is the single stupidest public policy proposal floated in my lifetime. It is so vauntingly cynical, so painfully unimaginative, so glibly unquestioning of a status quo in which a certain number of students must simply be expected to attempt mass murder that it would be generous to refer to it as nihilistic.

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It is worth pointing out the vague and abstract nature of the language used by those pushing this ludicrous notion. Teachers, they say, should be capable of "neutralizing" "threats." Let's be honest about what that means. It is code for killing their students.

Imagine being a teacher and waking up every morning with the assumption that it may later that day be your responsibility to take the life of one of the young people in your care. Imagine this being something that is simply a part of your job, a course of action to be taken at your discretion, like the assignment of extra homework or detention. If Johnny pulls a knife and you feel that your safety or that of his fellow students is sufficiently threatened, you should feel free to point a gun at him and shoot until he is dead.

Because I am not running for office I feel safe saying that while America's public-school system is home to many fine teachers, it is also a welcome haven for dimwits and perverts. Many of these people are little more than babysitters who superintend the diurnal coarsening of their young charges' minds with technology. Barely a week goes by without a report of a public-school teacher committing a sex crime. I hardly trust most of these people with scissors. I would not want them anywhere near a gun.

That we have been earnestly debating their being armed as a matter of necessity for more than a week now is a sign — as if we needed another — of how advanced the process of moral and social decay in this country has become. A nation in which it is imagined that the only way to prevent students from murdering one another in the classroom with firearms is to put weapons in the hands of their teachers is not a nation in decline; it is only a few steps shy of being a failed state.

Gun rights enthusiasts will preen about the importance of a free society. They are delusional. A society in which pedagogue-upon-pupil bloodshed must be considered a distinct component of every attempt to introduce Shakespeare or impart the fundamentals of algebra to children is not a free society. It is an anarchy, a brutal Hobbesian lawlessness to which the meanest tyranny would be preferable. It is a world in which education is unfeasible, in which innocence is impossible, in which decency is an illusion, in which goodness and love of our fellow human beings are blithe liberal fantasies rather than the ends toward which all of us are oriented by nature. There is only one kingdom in which such viciousness is the basic assumption of every inhabitant, from the lowest subject to the fearful monarch, and it is one that none of us should ever wish to visit.

There are any number of reasonable, prudent steps that could be taken to prevent murders in our schools. Turning classrooms into armories is not one of them.

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