Michael A. Cohen

Arming teachers to prevent school shootings is insane

TALLAHASSEE, FL - FEBRUARY 21: An activist holds up a placard during a rally at the Florida State Capitol building to address gun control on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. In the wake of last week's deadly mass shooting that left 17 people dead, thousands of supporters joined the Parkland students to call for gun reform. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
An activist holds up a placard during a rally on Wednesday, at the Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee, to address gun control.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Arming teachers to prevent the next inevitable school shooting is a ludicrous, fantastical, insane idea that is never going to happen.

There are so many reasons why this is a terrible proposal that it’s hard to catalog them all. The first and most obvious problem is that school shootings represent a tiny sliver of the gun violence problem in America. Arming school teachers would not have stopped Aurora, Sutherland Springs, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, or the dozens of the shootings that happen daily in America and get little press attention.

Second, teachers are not soldiers — they lack the training, legal standing, and frankly, the psychological ability to make split-second, life-or-death decisions about the use of deadly force. Armed with a sidearm, they would most likely become yet another victim of a mass killer with an AR-15. Even trained officers are lousy shots in pressure-packed situations. Indeed, New York City police officers hit their targets only 18 percent of the time during gunfights. Why does anyone think schoolteachers would do better?


Indeed, one of the great ironies of this debate is that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed last week, had an armed security guard — and he stood outside during the four-minute rampage and did nothing to stop it.

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Putting more guns in schools will lead to more accidents and more deaths. Indeed, there is something extraordinarily perverse and depressingly American about responding to a mass killing in a school by recommending that we put more guns in schools.

But it also speaks more directly to the poverty of our political debate when it comes to guns. That we’re even discussing arming teachers, turning schools where children are educated from soft targets into hard targets or stationing more armed deputies at places of learning is a recognition that we’ve not only failed as a country to protect our children, but we also lack the political will to take any serious steps to deal with this epidemic of gun violence.

Rather than challenging the tiny segment of gun owners who resist changes to gun laws, and rather than trying to undo the stranglehold the NRA has on the national conversation about guns, our political leaders are seemingly more inclined to look for a pink pony solution in a pile of horse manure.

Or, if one wants to be truly cynical, they are using the idea of arming teachers as a distraction — the same kind of distraction that we see every time there is a mass killing.


After Las Vegas, the focus was on bump stocks; after San Bernardino and Orlando, jihadist terrorism; after countless other shootings, mental health. It’s not an accident that the NRA and their lackeys in Congress and the White House are talking about giving guns to teacher. They know that focusing on this harebrained idea will shift the debate away from the real issue: limiting access to firearms.

The reality of the situation is that there is a simple solution to gun violence in America. It’s not about improving mental health access. It’s not about turning schools into armed fortresses. It’s not about violent video games. It’s certainly not about arming teachers.

It’s about universal background checks. It’s about banning assault weapons. It’s about taking guns away from people charged or convicted of committing domestic violence. It’s about making it easier to take guns away from people who may represent a threat to themselves and others. These steps will not end gun deaths in America. They certainly won’t prevent law-abiding gun owners from purchasing weapons. But they will save lives.

And in the end, what else really matters? If you are as outraged as those brave kids in Florida demanding that the country finally do something about America’s sick gun culture, don’t be distracted by this ridiculous debate about arming teachers. It’s about the guns. That’s all we should be talking about.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.