Would I want to carry a gun in the classroom? I’ve been giving this some thought lately, in part because I’ve been answering this question for journalists, but more since I talked to my students about it Friday.
With journalists, I have started here: 1) The only way a gun is really of any use in a crisis is if it is loaded and on my person throughout the school day. 2) Given what I (and most teachers) wear, I cannot really conceal a weapon. 3) I am a 5’2”, 55-year-old woman. 4) Teenagers are developmentally impulsive. In a fit of pique, they are mostly just difficult, but a 6-foot, angry, impulsive boy can easily overcome me. 5) If I have a gun, and he takes it, you now have 6-foot, angry, impulsive boy with a gun he would not have otherwise had, and he is dangerous.
The response I often hear is that if I am not comfortable with a gun, I would not be made to carry one. Great. What if I decide that I am comfortable carrying a gun? How does that change any of the above? It doesn’t. It just means I’m armed and I have bad judgment.
That’s been my standard response, until I found myself talking to my students about it.
I looked into all their faces, and this is what I know: If one of my students pulled out a gun, I could not shoot him dead on the spot. Now, before you wonder whether or not I care about my other students, I want to ask you this: If your son or daughter pulled out a gun in the presence of your other children, could you shoot your child dead without hesitation? No? It’s no different for me. I would definitely hesitate. I would say, “Wait, Johnny, don’t make a decision that…”
And then I might well be dead, and that child would have a second loaded weapon that he did not have to begin with. And I’m sorry, but there would probably be other deaths to follow, and I’m even sorrier if they are any other children in that classroom that I love (which means any other child in that classroom, period). But if it’s your child who is holding the gun, and I don’t die, but manage to talk him down, you’ll be damned glad I couldn’t shoot.
If I have a gun, and I just shoot, none of us will ever know whether I could have talked him down, but that child’s parents and I will wonder for the rest of our lives, and honestly, mine would be pretty short, because I just couldn’t live with that. Then again, going through a shooting unarmed was very nearly the end of me anyway.
Now do you understand what you ask of a teacher when you ask her to carry a gun, or if you ask her not to?
This is why we have to do better at keeping guns out of kids’ hands. I don’t have immediate suggestions. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have enough information, but this whole “it’s too soon to talk about it,” and “don’t politicize it,” and our refusal to contextualize the Second Amendment (either in today’s terms or in the terms explicitly stated by the framers of the Constitution) is absurd.
Don’t ask me whether I love my students enough to defend them with a gun or too much to shoot one of them. Ask this country whether we love all of our children enough to get serious about objectively gathering the data we need to make good policy and then making good policy.