In the wake of the horrific school shooting that took 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, a significant majority of Americans now believe it’s time for real gun reform. For example, 97 percent of Americans now support universal background checks, and 67 percent support a ban on assault weapons.
In response to this rising tide, feeling the pressure to do something but with no desire to anger their donors, many NRA-sponsored legislators are now advocating for arming school teachers with guns. Arming school teachers is a concept premised on the NRA’s faulty theory that the only way to stop a “bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!” The NRA presents no data in support of this theory that does more to sell more guns than improve public safety.
In reality, experts know that accurately firing a weapon during a violent gun fight is nearly impossible. For example, the New York Police Department is one of the most professional law enforcement organizations with the most sophisticated firearms training of any police force in the world. However, a comprehensive RAND Corporation study found that when involved in a gunfight where officers are faced with the potential of being shot, the officers accurately hit their targets just 18 percent of the time. That 18 percent accuracy rate is despite the fact that they are professional law enforcement officers with extensive training in the police academy, have continuing in-service annual training requirements and must be re-qualified on their weapons twice a year.
Now imagine an army of school teachers with little or no training, trying to take down a “bad guy” with an assault weapon?
When I was City Managing Director and Deputy Mayor, I grew weary of seeing the terrible consequences of gun violence in our communities. The makeshift memorials of candles and stuffed animals, the blood-stained sidewalks and crime scene police tape are images far too common for our children. We often found fired bullet casings during neighborhood clean ups. I’ve seen the bullet holes in the stained glass of local churches and in the walls of corner stores.
For Philadelphia’s children, the careful route planning to avoid a dangerous walk to school or a potential violent confrontation on a playground are harsh realities of their daily lives. In many of our neighborhoods, they live with a constant threat of every day gun violence. But their schools are normally a safe haven from guns. Now, in response to recent events, gun rights advocates want to arm teachers and add even more guns into the equation. This effort brings the spectre of gun violence into every school. Our schools should be headquarters of imagination not arsenals of ammunition.
A study found that when involved in a gunfight where officers are faced with the potential of being shot, the NYPD officers accurately hit their targets just 18 percent of the time. Now imagine an army of school teachers with little or no training, trying to take down a “bad guy” with an assault weapon?
I am a gun violence survivor. When I was 13 years old, my father was gunned down in front of me as we got in to our car to go to my first Pop Warner football game. I know the last thing we need is guns in our schools and even more guns on our streets. Universal background checks for all gun sales, an assault weapons ban, and child access prevention laws that keep guns out of the hands of disturbed individuals and children would go much further to prevent everyday gun violence and mass shootings.
Most school shootings are conducted by disturbed current or former students. Teachers should be given the resources to identify and prevent school violence before it ever happens, not be armed in a misguided effort that endangers even more bystanders as they attempt to shoot unstable students in a gunfight.
Recently, NYC Police Commissioner James O’Neil was asked his views on arming teachers. His answer was quick and clear: “Teachers should teach!” I agree. Teachers should be given the tools they need to teach and inspire our kids. They should be leading debate team practice and chess team practice, not be given a gun and sent to target practice.
On Saturday, March 24th students have organized a national march on Washington, D.C.—with sister marches around the country, including in Philadelphia—to fight for common sense gun laws. That does not include arming teachers or expanding concealed carry laws. We should listen and support them as they literally March For Their Lives.
Rich Negrin is a gun violence survivor, the former City Manager & Deputy Mayor of the City of Philadelphia and a former candidate for District Attorney. He is a Board Member of CeasefirePA and an advocate for common sense gun reform. This is the first in a monthly series of articles Negrin will contribute to The Citizen about this issue.Photo: Dany Fletcher via Flickr