Fortress America: Time to let teachers carry guns in the classroom?

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013.
Fortress America: Time to let teachers carry guns in the classroom?
The chasm that now divides the nation on the question of gun control has brought to the forefront an unwitting hero in this debate: the American teacher, who may become the first line of defense if Donald Trump has his way.

In an emotional meeting on Wednesday with students and relatives affected by the recent rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, Trump tested the turbulent waters by suggesting teachers be allowed to carry firearms in the classroom.

“So let’s say you [armed] 20 percent of your teaching force, because that’s pretty much the number,” the divisive US leader said. “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

By way of example, Trump mentioned the fate of Aaron Feis, the football coach at Stoneman Douglas who was killed as he was attempting to shield students from the barrage.

Feis, a reported gun owner, left his firearm at home on the day of the tragedy. It is tempting to wonder whether or not Feis could have saved lives – including his own - had he brought his gun to school that day. That is something we will never know. However, the idea of allowing teachers to bring guns into the classroom as a security measure against the threat of active shooters is gaining traction. 

At first blush, such a plan sounds like a recipe for absolute disaster; a scene straight out of the wild, wild West where gunfights were a regular part of the American experience. Is it reasonable to expect our teachers to serve on behalf of students as both educators and terminators? Will our classrooms start to resemble a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? Can teachers be trusted to bear firearms in the classroom?

Personally, I think the idea, while far from ideal, has some merit. But first we have to admit that, much like America’s disastrous ‘war on drugs’ or ‘war on alcohol’ (Prohibition 1920-1933) any attempt at a ‘war on guns’ will meet with a similar fate. There are simply too many guns on the streets of America – literally hundreds of millions - to reasonably expect that the authorities could confiscate even a fraction of them. The numbers are truly mind boggling. A November 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that there were approximately 310 million firearms in the United States, which broken down amounts to 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. 

And that’s not counting assault weapons.

The popular AR-15 assault rifle that was used in the Florida shooting, for example, is owned by an estimated 5 million Americans (Assault-style weapons are loosely defined as semi-automatic firearms with magazine that requires a pull of the trigger for each bullet fired. These firearms were banned in 1994 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but the prohibition expired in 2004 and Congress voted to not renew it).

Given the physical impossibility of rounding up all this ‘heat,’ any effort would predictably result in a worse-case situation where, as the pro-gun crowd reminds us: ‘If you outlaw the guns, only the outlaws will have them.’

Yet both sides in the great gun debate, like so many other issues that separate the two US political camps of the Democrats and Republicans, are simply screaming past each other. The Democrats appear to be of the opinion that guns should be relegated to the pastoral pastime of duck hunting, while the Republicans, holding fast to the Second Amendment like scripture, refuse to give an inch when it comes to their gun freedoms. Can the introduction of teachers into the debate pacify both sides?

Would it be too much of a leap of faith to trust these educators with firearms in the classrooms? And again, Trump’s proposal does not call for arming every single teacher in the country, just 20 percent. Considering how many gun owners there already are in America, it stands to reason that many probably already have some experience handling firearms. And to prevent accidental discharges occurring in the classroom, the weapons – a bit like fire extinguishers - could be locked away safely ‘in case of emergency.’

For those who remain unconvinced, keep in mind the next time you are flying in an American commercial aircraft that there is a very good chance that one of the pilots is carrying a gun. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US government created the so-called Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which states that “eligible flight crew members are authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to use firearms to defend against an act of criminal violence or air piracy attempting to gain control of an aircraft.” 

But if the idea of having teachers serving as body guards for students sounds unappealing, there is an option put into action by Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Indiana. The school is outfitted with bulletproof doors, video cameras that feed directly to the local police and even ceiling smoke bombs that can be activated to visually impair an active shooter. All yours for around $400,000.

Whatever the final decision, it is evident that either the guns must go, or some extreme measures must be undertaken in American schools to prevent another horrific mass shooting from happening.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution should not serve as a death warrant for far too many people, but rather as the protector of life and liberty as it was designed by the founding fathers.

@Robert_Bridge

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.