By Kim Rivera
After another horrific mass shooting in America, we are left with the same questions.
Why did this happen?
Could we have prevented this tragedy?
Besides the shooter, who is to blame?
And what can we do in the future to stop this from happening?
Because a mass shooting anywhere, especially in a school, is the kind of senseless violence that breaks hearts forever. And thoughts and prayers aren’t saving lives or shielding our children from bullets.
In the wake of Parkland, Florida, some leaders including the President of the United States are calling for arming teachers and certain trained school staff members with firearms in an attempt to create deterrence. Their logic, in part, is that if teachers are armed in the buildings shooters are less likely to target schools. They also believe an armed teacher or staff member can take down shooters during the attack and help save lives.
Let’s try to be objective: there is a chance that this may prevent some shootings and yes, an armed teacher could engage in a shootout with a deranged perpetrator while first responders race to the school. We should thoughtfully consider any potential alternative when it comes to saving lives.
But let me be clear: when the conversation is about guns and safety and how to prevent future gun violence, I do not believe the solution is add more guns. This is the kind of slippery slope and bravado that invites as much if not more danger to the situation.
As a mother of three children who went through the Springfield school system, I do not agree that teachers or staff members should be trained to carry guns in schools. When I think of my grandchild sitting in a classroom with a teacher carrying a loaded weapon, I fear this will do more harm than good. There are so many variables to consider and threats or perceived threats can happen in the blink of an eye.
What if a student is having a bad day and is acting angry or off of their medication?
What if they are arguing with students or teachers or exhibiting signs that they are a danger to themselves or others?
Teachers are humans and they could feel threatened in that situation and use their gun to protect themself instead of using other resources. What if a student overpowers a teacher knowing there is a firearm in the classroom?
Right now we have so many of our black and Hispanic youth from low income communities being sent to prison or dying at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. We do not need a situation where there are more people with guns in their lives. We should not be proposing the solution that more guns and only guns are the answer when it comes to safety.
Moreover, has anyone even considered the impact this will have on students knowing that their teacher or someone else in the building has a gun?
We ask enough of our teachers. We ask them to educate our children, to create a safe, warm and innovative environment that explores what is possible when the focus is learning and development. We should not be asking teachers to be security guards and snipers. So many cities already lack funds for books and supplies- who is going to pay for this? What department will oversee this?
There are so many questions and risks that come with this idea and no one is prepared right now to figure this out. We aren’t talking enough about mental health support. We aren’t providing enough training and professional development for teachers to handle these at risk students who pose a threat to their peers.
We should be having a real conversation about reducing access to these weapons and how to help people who are troubled with mental illness. We should be providing more opportunities for students to discuss their experiences and prevent bullying. These objectives can be accomplished if leaders take a more holistic view of what causes gun violence and the kinds of problems our youth are facing.
No, I do not believe the answer is more guns. But we can’t sit around and not do something.
Too much is at stake and it’s time for our leaders to step up for our kids.