I must admit when I read the quote, I stopped, rubbed my eyes and read it again.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said the following regarding the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.:
“These people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns — it may be 10 percent or may be 40 percent. And what I'd recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus,” Trump said. “They'll frankly feel more comfortable having the gun anyway. But you give them a little bit of a bonus.”
I understand we are in a strange place right now. I understand everyone, up to and including the president, is searching for a way to stop the senseless campus shootings.
When I first read the quote, I read it as a dad. Our two youngest are both elementary school teachers, one in her second year in a public school in east Alabama and the other in her fifth year at a charter school in Detroit.
As their dad, I would probably offer different career advice if their colleagues started carrying in the classroom. For the record, neither one of them thinks it’s a good idea. And I suspect neither would ever raise their hands to carry a gun into their classroom.
And they are not alone. Friday morning before 6, I posted the following question on my personal Facebook page: “Unscientific poll: Should teachers be trained and armed? (Educator, law enforcement officer and military votes count twice.) Just yes or no answers.”
By the time school was out Friday, there had been nearly 300 responses to the question. I didn’t do the math, but I can tell you the response was overwhelmingly against it. Almost all of my teacher friends were against it. There were some exceptions, but not many.
Another one of my Facebook friends is a veteran coach and history teacher in Alabama. What I know about my friend has reminded me of Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was killed in the mass shooting last week.
But my friend was clear about where he stood on the possibility of teachers carrying guns into the classroom.
“There is not enough money in any school’s budget to make me carry a gun at school,” he posted this week.
Saying he had stayed out of the social media fight, he made it clear on his Facebook post where he stood on the issue:
“To all my students and players,
I will educate you, lecture you, correct your behavior, fuss at you, applaud you, test you, belly flop you, run you up and down the hill, hug you, tutor you (or get you a tutor for math), work you past what you thought was your breaking point, take you home from practice, tell you when you are right, tell you when you are wrong, buy your lunch, help you get a scholarship, dog you out when you need it, buy you a sports drink and candy bar on the way home from practice (while I’m dogging you out), pat you on the back after I dog you out, write you a recommendation letter, tell you I love you, and I might even inspire you every now and then; but, under no circumstances, will I EVER SHOOT YOU!!!”
He concluded with the words of Dirty Harry Callahan, “A man has to know his limitations.”
And I think a realistic look at limitations is where this debate should start.
Another of my Facebook friends who is not a career educator but a professional soldier took a hammer and hit the issue directly on its head.
“The people asking for teachers to be armed in classrooms are people who’ve never been in a gunfight,” my friend posted. “I can assure you, that’s the last thing you’d want if you had seen some of what I’ve seen over the past 16 years.”
I have never been in a gunfight. And there were a lot of high school kids in Parkland who had never been in one either, until last week.
“Soldiers who’ve spent years training for combat fold under fire,” my friend’s post continued. “I’ve seen it more than once. Soldiers who’ve spent years training for combat make mistakes under fire.”
A career law enforcement officer in Parkland apparently folded under that pressure during last week’s slaughter. A Broward County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resigned after he came under investigation for failing to enter the building as a gunman opened fire and killed 17 people.
If a career deputy reacted that way, imagine how a career educator would react.
“Now, imagine the average science or math teacher, after a gun safety class and a trip to the firing range, firing a weapon in the classroom to stop a maniac with a gun,” my friend the soldier posted on his Facebook page. “Are you willing to bet your child’s life that they won’t make a mistake? Will they be aware of what’s to the left and right, above and below, in front of and behind their target? These are things that you must be able to assess in a split second. Will they understand the consequences of missing? The consequences of a round going through a wall, or a ricochet?”
My friend has almost four years of combat experience in our nation’s wars.
“With all of the experience that I have,” he said, “I wouldn’t ask you to trust me in a classroom full of students, firing a weapon at an attacker, so I damn sure wouldn’t ask you to trust a person who is trained to be an educator in that same situation. It’s reckless. It’s dangerous.”
There has got to be an answer, but this isn’t it.