The Best Way to Keep Students and Teachers Safe

by Katherine Doerr Morosky

“April is the cruelest month…” When TS Eliot wrote that first line of “The Wasteland” almost 100 years ago, could he have known what significance it would have to American survivors of gun violence and domestic terrorism today? What is it about April that made the disaffected want to bomb a federal building and a marathon, or to kill classmates and teachers in Virginia and Colorado? As the earth awakens with flowers and green grass, why does violence awaken in some evil hearts?

On April 20, after I changed my Facebook picture to a columbine flower with a tear falling from its petal, I read Charles Blow’s column in The New York Times, “Has the N.R.A. Won?”. Mass shooting incidents always result in a spike in gun sales, but the wider question is if gun “control” advocates have failed to make a moral argument for the fact that public safety is reduced when greater numbers of more powerful guns are in ordinary citizens’ homes, cars, bags and pockets. The 300 million guns in the United States are enough for every person to own one, but in fact the percentage of Americans who own guns is around 35%.

What does this mean for teachers in schools? We work in inherently dangerous environments. Schools are attractive to those seeking to do harm: large numbers of vulnerable citizens (women and children) congregating on a predictable schedule. What is the best way to prevent mass death in schools? Should teachers be expected to defend their classrooms with guns as so many Americans expect to defend their personal safety?

If those ideas sound silly, it’s because they are. When people live together as societies, there is absolutely no way to be completely insulated from violent crime. Mass shootings and certainly mass violence are not uniquely American. March’s shooting at a university in Kenya resulted in the murder of 147. Tragically, mass deaths happen: the Germanwings pilot inflicted nearly equal carnage with an airplane and a mountain.

What makes the United States a more dangerous place to live is not “crime”. It’s the sheer number of guns in our country. They result in what should be an unacceptable amount of random, senseless shootings in homes, on streets, and in public. Americans are twenty times more likely to be murdered by a gun than citizens in other developed countries. These completely preventable deaths are robbing communities of their futures.

The best way to keep students and teachers safe is for better laws to be created that keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. You may think that a background check is necessary to purchase a gun. It’s not: guns are sold to all kinds of people who are legally prohibited from possessing them at places like gun shows and on the internet. Without universal background checks, it’s legal to sell a gun to a felon. Some states do require background checks for all gun purchases, but until there is a federal law, the state-by-state approach is weak. After all, it’s not very hard for a felon in Connecticut to travel to New Hampshire.

If teachers are armed in schools, the one predictable outcome will be more shootings in schools. More guns anywhere means more deaths. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Having a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home, regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of guns in the home.” Bringing guns to school will have the same effect.

KMorosky-150x150VIVA Teacher Katherine Doerr Morosky teaches online at Connections Education. She participated in the VIVA NEA Writing Collaborative on school safety.

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