This House would arm teachers

This debate refers specifically to the United States of America but many of the arguments would be applicable to other countries around the world.

In recent years, incidents such as the massacre at Columbine High School, where two students gunned down their classmates, has given rise to the debate over whether teachers in the USA should be allowed to carry arms in the classroom. Supporters claim it means tragic massacres of students could be avoided if teachers could defend themselves against armed fanatics to the same degree.[1] These massacres sparked off a debate about whether teachers are in a position where it is their responsibility to protect their vulnerable charges. And if so what possible ways there are to enable them to do so.

The second amendment of the US constitution maintains that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. This is nearly always taken as meaning all citizens have the right to bear arms, allowing teachers and others in positions of authority over vulnerable groups to be armed would be a natural extension of this entitlement.

The alternative suggestion for preventing such tragic incidents will not be covered much in this debate that there needs to be more restriction of guns. Advocates for gun controls claim that the USA’s love affair with guns is the very reason why incidents such as Columbine happened in the first place, as the problem lies far more in the ease with which volatile groups, such as teenagers and young people, can access guns. If arms laws were made far stricter then it would reduce the risk of on-campus shootings and as a result, remove the need for teachers to protect themselves and their students. As a result of the entrenched arms culture in the USA, power of the gun lobby, and second amendment this debate takes as a starting point that such restrictions are unlikely to happen. Therefore the most logical way to reverse the issues raised by incidents like Columbine is to meet them with equal means, of which allowing teachers to carry arms would be one. On balance, this would mean a greater reduction in the harms inflicted in US society by guns as a whole.

 The mechanism for this debate would therefore be a simple one. The only people allowed to carry guns in school environments would be registered teachers and head teachers, who have certified gun licences and who have undertaken special courses in how to carry arms safely in a school environment.

 We would allow individual states to decide whether or not to grant schools the authority to carry arms, defined as firearms like handguns, and excluding other weapons such as tasers. Such a law would allow individual high schools to form their own policies on whether or not teachers can carry guns – therefore if individual teachers feel they cannot be in one environment or another, they are free to move schools within that state. Freedom of conscience can therefore be combined with an adherence to the second amendment[2] and a concern for classroom safety in American schools.

[1] Hernandez, Selena, ‘Should Teachers Carry Guns On Campus’, CBS 11 News, 21 January 2011, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/01/21/should-teachers-carry-guns-on-campus/

[2] Amendment 2, The United States Constitution, 25 September 1789, http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am2

 

Title 
Arming teachers would mean safer schools
Point 

If school teachers, as people in positions of authority over vulnerable groups, were permitted to carry arms then it would guarantee greater protection for children. Incidents in recent years such as the massacre at Columbine High School have proven that a significant risk exists of school children gaining access to guns and using them against their classmates. The carnage could have been prevented if the teachers present had been able to defend themselves and the children in their care as teachers would be able to act as a first line of defence.[1] Furthermore, having schools as arms-free environments specifically makes them a target, those looking for targets are more likely to choose schools because they are less likely to meet armed resistance. Incidents include a school in Lincoln, Nebraska where a 17-year-old shot his vice-principal before killing himself. Lawmaker Mark Christensen, who had previously been opposed to teachers carrying arms, introduced legislation in January this year after the incident.[2] It illustrates how the potential for harm could be reduced if adults in responsible positions could defend themselves and those in their care.

[1] Hernandez, Selena, ‘Should Teachers Carry Guns On Campus’, CBS 11 News, 21 January 2011, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/01/21/should-teachers-carry-guns-on-campus/

[2] Huffington Post, ‘Teachers Carrying Guns: Nebraska Senator Mark Christensen Introduces Bill To Keep Schools Safe’, 18 January 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/19/nebraska-teachers-guns_n_811028.html

Counterpoint 

The logical fallacy here is the assumption that teachers will always have pupils’ best interests at heart. There’s little to stop children from becoming extremely vulnerable if they are under the supervision of someone who could turn on them. Gun attacks like Columbine and Virginia Tech are often by people whose potential for violence was not spotted by anyone until it was too late. People in positions of authority are not always reliable or rational, and no amount of safety checks can guarantee that some teachers will not abuse the powers they have. This measure would simply increase the potential threat from those who have been authorised to carry guns in schools.

Title 
Not all schools have police available to protect them.
Point 

All schools and schoolchildren need to be protected yet not all schools are anywhere near a source of protection. Arming some teachers is most urgent in areas police provision is scarce due to diminished funds. Places like Harrold county in Texas have a sheriff’s office situated 17 miles away, and unlike more urban areas they cannot afford to hire district police officers. With the law enforcement officers so far away a lot of children could be killed before there could be any possibility of response from any police of law enforcement agencies. Arming teachers in predominantly rural areas of the USA is therefore a logical and necessary step to protect schools that do not already have dedicated protection.[1]

[1] McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=2

Counterpoint 

This simply shows a need to either expand the law enforcement agencies or else have locals who are deputised. There is no need to turn schools into an armed environment in order to ensure that someone who is responsible who is armed is close enough to respond to any crisis at a school.

Title 
The Second Amendment
Point 

When it comes down to it, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the American constitution. This right applies just as much to teachers as it does to anyone else. Having a right to bear arms means there is always going to the threat that one person can draw and use a weapon against another. The best way to counter-act such a danger is to meet it with equal means, as the culture of arms-bearing in the USA is too entrenched to try methods that involving scaling back gun-usage or enforcing much stricter arms control. Any attempt to do so would likely be struck down by the United States Supreme Court just as it declared the restrictions on handguns that were in place in Washington DC.[1] Therefore the best way to protect the most vulnerable in US society is to deploy the means that are encouraged and protected by the constitution.  

[1] Supreme Court of the United States, ‘District of Columbia et al. v. Heller’, 26 June 2008, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf

Counterpoint 

Why shouldn’t they carry guns if teachers can? Surely in such uncertain situations as Columbine they should also carry the right to protect their classmates? Even if children aren’t legally meant to carry them anyway then what’s to stop moral gray areas from occurring in situations of self-protection for an entire class/school?

Taking this to its natural conclusion, what is to stop teachers’ guns simply falling into the wrong hands? A child could steal a teacher’s gun and use it against a classmate, causing unintentional or intentional fatalities, arming teachers simply makes such events possible rather than protecting against them.[1] The logic of trying to make schools less vulnerable to violent attacks by introducing more firearms is hugely flawed.

[1] McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=4

Title 
Teachers need protection just as much as students
Point 

An incident in Medford, Oregon in 2007 illustrated how teachers need to be able to protect themselves as well as their students. Gun lobbyists claimed teacher Jane Doe’s reasons for wanting to be armed while teaching were based on the restraining order against her ex-husband, who had made threats against her and her children. Although local laws dictated that only law enforcement officers could brings guns onto a school campus, she challenged it on the grounds of her own personal safety.[1] In a country like the USA where ordinary civilians can own guns, people often feel the need to carry arms for the sake of self-protection. If people are allowed to do this in their own homes, then if the threats persist while they are at work by extension they should still be allowed to exercise self-protection.

[1] Knickerbocker, Brad, ‘Should teachers be allowed to pack a gun?’, Christian Science Monitor, 18 September 2007, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0918/p01s01-uspo.html

Counterpoint 

That teachers may also sometimes need protection does not alter the debate. They could equally be protected by having better police services and officers closer to schools. If teacher needs a gun for protection from someone threatening them then they are putting the children they are responsible for in danger. If Jane Doe’s ex husband had come after her and both had been armed her students could very easily have been caught in the crossfire.

Title 
Children are impressionable
Point 

Allowing teachers to carry arms in school could mean that very young children could easily become acclimatised to the idea that carrying a gun and ultimately gun usage is ok. Surely the way to prevent incidents like Columbine from happening is to teach children about the potentially destructive and fatal consequences of gun usage? For elementary/primary school-age children, it would be difficult to separate the idea that it’s ok for teachers to always carry guns but not for anyone else. 

Counterpoint 

Schools such as those in the county of Harrold, TX [1] have already introduced laws allowing teachers to carry pistols, but largely in a concealed fashion. This therefore leaves children unawares and thus not distracted by seeing teachers prominently carrying guns. Furthermore, with teachers carrying concealed arms, any would-be attackers would be thrown by not knowing who to shoot first, which would not be the case if police officers were the first on the scene.

[1] McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=2

Title 
Guns in schools might be used in circumstances other than defense.
Point 

Having guns in the classroom will more than likely increase the chances of gun related violence in schools. It would increase the chance of gun related accidents; although only a very small chance there would previously have been no chance. It may well also increase the number of shootings; people who carry guns are 4.5 times more likely to be shot,[1] although there is no way of knowing if the effect would be the same in the classroom as on the street. Finally it is ignoring the possibility that those who are to carry guns for the school children’s protection may at some point turn the gun on their charges. Teaching can be a very frustrating job and the teacher may get very angry with individual students, allowing teachers to carry guns would greatly increase the risk of an unpremeditated shooting against on a schoolchild.

[1] Callaway, Ewen, ‘Carrying a gun increases risk of getting shot and killed’, NewScientist, 6 October 2009, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17922-carrying-a-gun-increases-risk-of-getting-shot-and-killed.html

Counterpoint 

The chances of accidents would be miniscule as teacher would be trained to carry the gun and would keep it with them at all times when in the classroom so there would be no chance of the students playing with the gun. The deterrence effect of having guns in school is likely to mean that the number of shootings will go down rather than up. Finally if it was an armed teacher who perpetrated the shooting then they would have been able to commit that atrocity regardless of whether s/he was allowed to carry a gun in school.

Title 
Children would be caught in the crossfire
Point 

We need to remember that we’re most likely dealing with threats to young people by other young people here. If teachers were granted the right of ‘shoot to kill,’ as the mechanism would imply, of anyone they found threatening, the consequences to completely innocent people in a crossfire, or merely troubled youngsters that could be rehabilitated if simply subdued, could be tragic and fatal. Ultimately, teachers are not police officers and are thus not equipped to take out an armed criminal in the same way. As the legislative director of the Houston Association of Teachers out it, “We are trained to teach and educate – not to tame the Wild West.”[1]

[1] McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4

Counterpoint 

Teachers in places where the scheme has already been piloted have received training from private security firms. In Harrold county, teachers have also been provided with special ammunition that avoids ricocheting and therefore minimises the threat of students being caught in crossfire.[1] Other schools in more urban parts of states like Texas, particularly those suffering a high level of gang violence, already have their own police forces. Many American schools are therefore used to having an environment where arms usage is the norm. It is therefore hard to argue that introducing armed protection in a different form, aka through teachers rather than police officers, would result in an increased level of risk.

[1] McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=2

Title 
How could arming teachers be regulated?
Point 

If teachers can bear arms, then what’s to stop other people in the school environment in contact with children, such as janitors, from demanding they should too, or even getting hold of them illicitly? Many of them won’t have been certified or checked, and as such there is no guarantee that the system of only allowing teaching staff to carry them could be fully regulated. This is particularly the case if janitors, cafeteria workers or cleaning staff have private gun licences of their own. The result is that children could be in an environment where those not licensed to carry arms around them would have greater opportunities to do so, thereby increasing the threat to children. It would be difficult to monitor which staff are bringing guns into school without a lot of investment in searches and detectors – money that could have paid for professional security. It is thus arguable that the proposition’s mechanism does not stand. 

Counterpoint 

The opposition’s point is a rather speculative one, as you could apply this argument to teachers in general, or anyone in positions of power over more vulnerable groups, such as nurses or doctors. Just because a minority choose to abuse (such as with the paedophile scandals in reported in some public US high schools)[1] that does not mean everyone in the teaching profession should have the right to protect those in their care revoked.

[1] Irvine, Martha, and Tanner, Robert, ‘AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools’, The Washington Post, 21 October 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR200710...

Bibliography 

Callaway, Ewen, ‘Carrying a gun increases risk of getting shot and killed’, NewScientist, 6 October 2009, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17922-carrying-a-gun-increases-risk-of-getting-shot-and-killed.html

Hernandez, Selena, ‘Should Teachers Carry Guns On Campus’, CBS 11 News, 21 January 2011, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/01/21/should-teachers-carry-guns-on-campus/

Huffington Post, ‘Teachers Carrying Guns: Nebraska Senator Mark Christensen Introduces Bill To Keep Schools Safe’, 18 January 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/19/nebraska-teachers-guns_n_811028.html

Irvine, Martha, and Tanner, Robert, ‘AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools’, The Washington Post, 21 October 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100144.html

Knickerbocker, Brad, ‘Should teachers be allowed to pack a gun?’, Christian Science Monitor, 18 September 2007, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0918/p01s01-uspo.html

McKinley, James C., ‘In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns’, The New York Times, 28 August 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/us/29texas.html?_r=2

Supreme Court of the United States, ‘District of Columbia et al. v. Heller’, 26 June 2008, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf

Amendment 2, The United States Constitution, 25 September 1789, http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am2

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