In response to the latest mass school shooting in the US in which a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Republican politicians have fended off calls for gun control with proposals such as arming teachers and increasing police presence and security at schools.
But many American teachers have heavily criticized these proposals as solutions that wouldn’t work and as distractions from actual solutions that conflict with the interests of gun lobbyists and manufacturers, who significantly fund and support Republicans.
“If they cared at all, something would have been done. It would have been done after Columbine,” said Jim Gard, a high school math teacher in Broward county, Florida, who survived the 2018 Parkland school shooting. “Until they start caring more about people’s lives than worrying about their donations and their own careers and their own power, this will never end. They’ll have another one, next week, next month, whatever it is – this is going to continue, and it’ll never stop until they decide to put an end to it.”
Many teachers doubt the Republican proposals would work.
“There have been armed teachers and armed security in schools since Columbine and not once has it made a difference,” said Elizabeth Boyd Graham, a high school teacher in Houston, Texas. “If more guns made it safer, we’d be the safest country in the world, and we’re not. The states with the weakest gun laws have the highest amount of gun violence.”
The idea of arming teachers has been proposedafter previous mass shootings. Several states already permit teachers or other school employees with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on school grounds.
Rose Malani Ott, a teacher in Ohio for 30 years, said she has been distraught over the Uvalde shooting. Her school has had active shooter drills, one secure entrance, visitors who have to be buzzed into the school, and a heavy police presence, and she argued these proposals put more responsibility and pressure on teachers who already deal with so much.
“I am so sick of people who don’t know anything about schools blaming teachers for everything,” said Malani Ott. “Teachers were thrown under the bus for Covid and are putting their lives on the line every day to protect our kids. We are tired of the lack of support from management, government officials and the public.”
A 2019 survey of more than 2,900 teachers around the US conducted by a researcher at California State University, Northridge, found 95.3% believed teachers should not be carrying guns in the classroom.
“I went to college to become a teacher, not a law enforcement officer,” said Jourden Armstrong, a teacher for 15 years in Michigan. “Commonsense gun reform is an absolutely necessary component to curbing this uniquely American problem.”
She also argued teachers would leave the profession in droves if these policy proposals were enacted. There was already a shortage of teachers around the US and the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the problem.
“I’m scared, my kids are scared, and I’m ready to walk away from a job I love because I feel absolutely powerless,” Armstrong said. “Powerless to protect myself, powerless to protect my students, and powerless to blood money that our legislators continue to accept because they put profit over people.”
The National Education Association, the largest labor union in the US representing about 3 million members, criticized the proposal of arming teachers as a solution to mass shootings in schools.
“Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence. We need fewer guns in schools, not more. Teachers should be teaching, not acting as armed security guards,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association and a middle school science teacher with 31 years of experience.
Paul Miglin, a teacher in Houston, Texas, who works with students from kindergarten through eighth grade, expressed horror at news of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, but argued that the lack of action and response after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 demonstrated that elected officials were not going to take action on this issue.
Arming teachers “won’t make us safer,” Miglin said. “And any teacher who would shoot a student and be eager to be armed in school, honestly that’s not someone I believe should be working in a school at all.”
Several teachers who spoke to the Guardian requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“Armed police in body armor waited around for a solid hour for more heavily armed police in heavier body armor. Why should I need to be more ready to fire on an assailant than they were?” said a teacher in Clark county, Nevada.
Another teacher in Houston emphasized that public education, especially in Texas, is already severely underfunded and teachers are forced to work with a severe lack of resources.
In a 2021 report conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Texas ranked 40th out of 50 states and Washington DC in public education funding, spending $11,987 for each student annually, more than $3,000 less than the national average of $15,114.
The Houston teacher said his school doesn’t have a nurse or a librarian, teachers can’t get reimbursed for buying school supplies out of their own pocket, and his principal couldn’t even get funding from the district for a pizza party.
“We are tragically underfunded in most regards. I don’t have textbooks for my subject and magically now there can be funding for guns,” the teacher said. “When the Santa Fe shooting happened, I told trusted friends that if the school gave me a gun, I would sell it and buy a color printer for my classroom.”