Fred Grimm: Arming teachers is not the answer

12/19/2012 4:13 PM

12/19/2012 4:44 PM

Firearm advocates, dismissive of all this talk about gun control, are countering with their own novel solution to school massacres: school marms packing heat.

They envision pistol-toting teachers whipping out their Glocks and blasting away at mass-murdering lunatics wielding assault rifles.

State Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala suggested this week that schools would be safer if only teachers and principals were armed. His voice added to a chorus of similarly inclined lawmakers from Nevada, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, South Dakota and, of course, Texas. After the Newtown horrors, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert said he wished principal Dawn Hochsprung had been armed. “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out… and takes him out and takes his head off.”

The Baxley solution to guns — more guns — would preempt that vexing talk about banning assault weapons. And his idea has an undeniable visceral appeal. Armed teachers, maybe, could limit the kind of awful carnage seen in Connecticut.

Except the reality, when guns start blazing in classrooms, might not be so alluring.

On Memorial Day 2011, seven Miami Beach police officers and four from Hialeah, all working the holiday detail on Miami Beach, pulled their guns and fired at a driver who refused to pull over. One would assume that trained police officers might react with more cool than, say, your average elementary school teacher. Certainly they were trained in the use of firearms. The Miami Beach PD website boasts of an “in-service training and qualifications programs for safe and effective firearms and special weapons use.”

“Safe and effective” it wasn’t. Not that day. The police officers fired off 115 shots. They killed the obstinate driver — a controversy in itself. But apparently their gun frenzy wounded four innocent bystanders.

In August, New York police reported what initially seemed an attempted mass murder not far from the Empire State Building. Nine people had been gunned down by some mad killer. Except, as it turned out, all nine had been wounded by bullets fired by cops pursuing a gunman fleeing a murder scene a few blocks away. He hadn’t contributed a single bullet to the fusillade.

But we’re hoping school teachers will do better than the cops at avoiding collateral damage.

Of course, the odds are massively against any one teacher confronting an outsider bent on mass murder. Ninety-five percent of the attackers in school homicides, according to a study by the U.S. Secret Service, are other students.

Mostly, teachers deal with mundane outbursts of adolescent irrationality. Lawyer L. Elijah Stiers, who represents a young innocent bystander whose hip was shattered in that Memorial Day 2011 gunplay, worries that introducing guns into that situation could have similar unanticipated, tragic consequences. Stiers, the son of a school teacher, warned, “The potential benefits of an armed teacher dealing with a lone gunman are far outweighed by the risk of something going wrong.”

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