Arming Tennessee's Teachers



Even though pro-gun advocates have been hollering about the importance of not making knee-jerk-reaction laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre, Tennessee legislators apparently fail to see the wisdom in that approach (or think only gun-control advocates need heed it). Already we're hearing about all kinds of bills designed to allow teachers to carry into schools.

The Times-Free Press has a rundown of some of the proposed ideas:

—"Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, has introduced legislation allowing districts to opt into a program allowing educators voluntarily to receive law enforcement-style training to carry their concealed weapons at school. "

—"State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, has a proposal similar to Watson's — teachers with carry permits could bring guns to school if they have special training and load frangible bullets."

—"State Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Knoxville, has drafted a bill requiring districts to assign at least one armed officer to every school or to allow teachers to go armed."

—"State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he plans to propose three options for schools — having trained student resource officers on campus; train faculty with carry permits, and require the school system to assume liability of its students."

Oh, Lord, this would be hilarious — if these people weren't serious. Just last year, we had to hear all about how terrible teachers are and how we had to enact all this legislation against them and now we're talking about arming them? Republicans—they don't trust you enough to let you collectively bargain with other adults, but they do trust you enough to let you have a gun in a room full of children!

I went to pretty good schools growing up. When I went to school, there were no guns in the buildings — except for a rifle one of the shop teachers and his students made from scratch one year, which hung on the wall in the shop room — but there were guns in the parking lots regularly, ebbing and flowing as the hunting seasons changed (though this obviously changed in 1990, when federal law put a stop to that).

And as I look back on the teachers I had — the ones who put the girls in the front of the class because we were "biologically worse at math," but actually so they could stare down our shirts or brush up against us regularly while they were passing out assignments; or the ones who encouraged the wrestlers to haze each other by holding down the new kids and sticking broomsticks up their asses; or the ones who slammed kids against lockers or tried to choke them when they felt they were being disrespected; or the ones who taped a friend of mine into his chair and then joked about how they hoped there'd be a fire — I think that as bad as that was, it would have been worse if those teachers had been armed. And I'm fairly certain that those teachers would have been the first to volunteer to carry, if they'd been allowed.

Isn't that the terrible joke of this? The teachers who would volunteer to do this are likely the very ones who should never be allowed to. Volunteering to do this pretty much proves that you don't have the judgement or discernment necessary to do this — you don't appreciate the magnitude of what you're being asked to do nor the potential for things to go wrong.

Rep. Watson says, "These teachers are not going to be carrying guns on their side. It's concealed, and no one will know. Nothing will change in the public's eye."

No one will know? Has Watson never spent time with a child? My nephew was here for less than a week after Christmas. I heard intimate details of his parents' troubles I'm sure they never knowingly shared with him. He found nail clippers I hadn't seen in years and a broken iPod I thought I'd thrown away months ago. He said, "I can tell when you say 'fine' in that tone of voice that things aren't fine." And, once we showed him what to look for, he found every animal track and pile of deer poop in Bells Bend Park.

You're going to tell me a room full of kids like him and his peers couldn't suss out who was carrying and who wasn't, and where these guns were concealed? Please. They'd have that shit figured out by the second week of classes.

But fine, let's just assume — just for the sake of argument — that only the teachers we would be comfortable with having guns are armed, and all of the children are completely incurious about the guns so they are no danger to anyone in the school except mass shooters.

If we are honestly committed to arming teachers so that they can be the first line of response against school shooters, are we prepared to train teachers to kill children? What kind of psychological resources will be available for teachers to help them deal with the training necessary to kill children? If they do have to shoot a child, how do we plan to help them cope with that?

Just at a practical level, how will we train them to kill children? I spent a great deal of time searching silhouette targets on the Internet. You can buy ones shaped like men, women, pilgrims, zombies, chickens, Osama bin Laden and almost anything you can imagine. I couldn't find a single one that would help you learn where to aim on someone like Robert Gladden, who was 15, or Darrel Johnson, who was 13, or Dedrick Owens, who was 6.

And say those targets did exist. How many times do you think an ordinary person could stand in front of the silhouette of a child and pull the trigger before it starts to fuck with them? And you want to then put that person in a classroom of kids?

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