Weekly Obsession: On arming teachers and other reactionary notions

Monday, December 31, 2012 at 4:41pm

After great tragedy — as that which befell Newtown, Conn. and indeed all of us Dec. 14 — it is common, healthy and necessary to look for answers and seek solutions.

Predictably, some people proclaim that the immediate aftermath of such an event isn’t a proper time to discuss gun control. Righteous anger that such a discussion would “politicize” a tragedy is itself passive-aggressively politicizing the tragedy.

As has been said, Newtown feels different than the myriad other mass shootings which have been our national shame for too long. That 20 of the 27 victims were children, that most of the adults were educators at an elementary school — it struck us in a way others have not.

And so, on a national level, the president indicates support for the restoration of the assault weapons ban — though, to be fair, the weapon used by Adam Lanza would not have been prohibited under the now-repealed, perhaps soon-to-be-revived law.

Other leaders and pundits rightly point out a conversation about mental health care should be part of the discussion.

And then there are those who tut that had there been more guns at Sandy Hook Elementary, this all could have been prevented.

Indeed, some — in Tennessee, Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) — propose arming teachers, even mandating the deputization of elementary school educators. Niceley said he will introduce a bill when the General Assembly gavels in next month that will allow schools to pay for background checks and firearms training for teacher volunteers, and he didn’t wholly dismiss the idea the state might pay for the guns themselves.

Niceley reasons that if potential mass shooters know there are teachers who are armed, they will avoid schools, which presumes these shooters are rational actors, though there’s plenty of evidence they are not. 

It is deterrence theory writ small — the fear of mutually assured destruction kept the Americans and Soviets from firing off world-ending nuclear missiles during the Cold War, so surely arming teachers to the teeth will end mass shootings. In that case, perhaps low-yield bombs should be a lagniappe with a teaching certificate.

Gov. Haslam didn’t exactly dismiss Niceley’s proposal, but Speaker of the House Beth Harwell unequivocally opposed it, raising hopes more sensible heads will prevail.

Niceley, Stacey Campfield and others like them presume teachers will react with the cool efficiency of law enforcement when faced with a situation so high-stress few of us can even comprehend it. According to this camp, the potential benefit — unproven — of putting weapons in teachers’ hands outweighs the potential risks of putting firearms in kindergarten classrooms.

No doubt, these are the same folks who would classify a gun-control debate as reactionary politicization; they can’t see the plank in their own eye.

7 Comments on this post:

By: enochall on 12/31/12 at 6:00

Hat's off to Utah! Help kids remain safe.
This statement is bogus -- "According to this camp, the potential benefit — unproven — of putting weapons in teachers’ hands outweighs the potential risks of putting firearms in kindergarten classrooms."
Every school in Israel has armed guards and/or staff. Google it.
BTW, why are there not mass shootings in police stations?

By: courier37027 on 12/31/12 at 8:34

A more sternly worded student handbook and guidelines could stop these shootings. Those Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois handbooks apparently did not stress quite enough a weapons prohibition. Those yellow "Safe Place" signs outside schools will take a cue from Homeland Security and assume an orange tint, reflecting the severity of this new finger wagging policy. Finally, those transparent glass stickers on the Aurora CO movie theater front doors will now be places on all exits. There, problem solved.

By: Loner on 1/1/13 at 7:20

"Lagniappe?" Give a mediocre writer a Thesaurus for Christmas and this is the grim result. But that's not all...according to the author, "righteous anger" is "passive-aggressively politicizing the tragedy"....more psychobabble, to compliment the contrived and stilted language?

It's time to round up the guns, de-fang the shooters, shut down the civilian guns & ammo industry.... and most importantly, to outlaw gun industry bribery of Congress....we are not going to accomplish those lofty goals with articles like this vague and poorly written one.

No more Mister Nice Guy....those of us who do not worship guns and the 2nd amendment need to grow a pair and develop a real backbone. The gunners, the guns & ammo manufacturers and their fear-mongering lobbies are holding the entire nation hostage to paranoia and mass hysteria....it's time for cooler, saner heads to prevail.

By: Loner on 1/1/13 at 7:31

Enochal, you are full of shit.

Read this:

Israel's gun laws are among the strictest in the world...there is no right to keep and bear arms in the Jewish State...and Israel has no written constitution.

Any armed guards in Israeli schools are there because of terrorist threats, not because there is a danger that some Israeli gun-nut could suddenly snap.

True, the Israeli government turns a blind eye to illegal weapons owned and used by Jewish "settlers" in the occupied stolen Arab lands; but in Israel proper, gun ownership is almost entirely restricted to the police, the Mossad and the IDF.

By: Jughead on 1/2/13 at 7:33

Liberals have created victim disarmament zones. Liberals are responsible for the mass shootings. If lawful carrying was permitted in schools/parks/etc., these nimrods would think twice before executing sitting duck children.

Thanks, liberals.

By: ancienthighway on 1/2/13 at 5:18

Jughead, you certainly picked a good handle for yourself.

The Crime Control Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-647) bans manufacturing and importing semiautomatic assault weapons in the U.S. "Gun-free school zones" are established carrying specific penalties for violations. George H. W. Bush was POTUS at that time. While the Democratic Party controlled both the House and the Senate, vote on this Act was 313 for, 1 against, and 118 not voting. Republican vote was 135-1-39.

This was not a liberal-conservative knock-down drag out fight with either party being bullied into accepting it.

By: FaceBook:Emmett... on 1/3/13 at 10:41

I wouldn't mandate deputizing or arming school staff, but I would allow it. Making criminals unsure of who does or does not have a gun is a proven deterrent. The mental health issue is kind of squishy to me. These shooters were not so "crazy" that they didn't know they were doing what they did in a "gun free" zone. I stay out of such places myself as they are entirely too dangerous.