In the 180 days of yearly educational instruction, research has shown that when averaged, a shooting occurs once every eight days.
Wow. This take is staggering and warrants reflection. This has to stop.
It is unusual to wake up without hearing about recent gun violence or another tragedy along those lines. Therefore, everyone has formulated an opinion on the touchy subject. This fact inspired me to interview and poll my peers to gather their thoughts on the possibility of having a gun in the possession of a teacher. This gun would be a defense against the seemingly endless poignant shootings. As expected, the responses were a wide range of opinions.
I spoke with 30 students, statewide, on the matter, and the majority of my peers felt that they would feel more terrified if guns were introduced into the school environment.
While 30 people is a small sample size for a true consensus, I included people of differing socioeconomic status, race, gender, religion and age. My data includes freshmen in public schools, upperclassmen from a private school, and freshmen in college (private and public). I did not divulge the students’ names, for anonymity allowed meaningful communication and provided security that one’s opinion would not become a personal attack.
The group who admitted that guns in the classroom would actually make them feel more anxious felt this way for a plethora of reasons.
“I would definitely say no to teachers having guns unless they’re recognized as trusted members in the school community by parents, students, and other faculty,” commented a Charleston Catholic High junior.
However, that opens up the question, how do we define trustworthiness? Is the scale a gradient or a concrete yes or no? The answer is not easily divulged and has intense stakes for a small mistake could change many lives forever.
Students also offered suggestions of preventative measures to truly feel safer. A sophomore at Capital High felt that “some teachers would take their sense of authority way too far.”
A junior commented, “It wouldn’t make me more or less scared ... instead of giving more people guns, just make the gun laws more strict.”
A junior from Wheeling Park High school commented, “I would feel safer if the federal government didn’t allow citizens to purchase weapons of war.”
“Giving guns to teachers who would then have to possibly shoot one of their own students” would be unnecessary if there were stricter gun laws, commented a junior.
This also brings up an interesting thought. Arming teachers would most likely mean they are subject to having the responsibility to shoot one of their own students if said student became violent. And that reminds us that teachers are humans with normal emotions.
“There are teachers out there who are too emotional,” commented a junior at George Washington High. It would be ridiculous to expect teachers to lack emotions and to be held accountable for human error. Mistakes happen, and some mistakes, especially in this context, are forever.
A junior commented, “I would feel more afraid, because even though you are making it seem like it is meant for the protection of students, it automatically makes a school environment more hostile.” What if a means of protection changes the environment of a school and makes it seem like a war zone?
Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, racism is still very prevalent. A biracial junior from George Washington High School of the Muslim denomination added an interesting perspective, admitting she would feel unsafe “because teachers aren’t all completely level-headed and sane individuals. And if given to a prejudiced or mentally unstable teacher, what will stop them from turning that gun on a student?”
An African American sophomore added, “I wouldn’t be scared because I trust my teachers, but I can’t speak for the rest of the students in schools across West Virginia.” That student is comfortable in their situation, but it would be nearly impossible to gauge the amount of confidence in safety of all American students and minority groups.
College students with roots of growing up in West Virginia had a variety of unique insights regarding the subject. A freshman at Dartmouth college stated, “Implementing a system where all teachers are armed would require a ridiculous amount of training, paperwork, and time that could otherwise be spent in a more passive approach toward gun laws.” This statement is a reminder of the magnitude of effort required for the implementation and how impractical this project could be.
A sophomore at West Virginia University suggested “police officers present at, and in, schools at all times.”
A freshman at Harvard University added an intriguing observation, “Some studies have found that 98 percent of mass shootings occur in gun-free zones, leading to the conclusion that shooters target areas where they know they will encounter little resistance.” This logical conclusion makes the call to action for protecting schools even more pressing. That student went on to add that knowledge of gun use “would act as a deterrent for potential shooters.”
A teacher I spoke with introduced a new opinion that I had never considered. He pointed out that many rights are not absolute. In America, we have the right to free speech, but we cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, for it infringes on others’ rights. Therefore, The Second Amendment, allowing the right to bear arms, should have more defined limitations, for it definitely has begun to infringe on other lives. The teacher confidently stated, “Military weapons have no purpose being out in the citizenry.”
After hearing myriad of differing individuals’ opinions, I feel that I have crafted a personal opinion that acknowledges close to all perspectives. I believe that the classic dogma, you can’t fight fire with fire, holds a great truth. Trying to defeat gun violence with the normalization of guns (being in schools regularly) would only evolve the use of more powerful weapons.
Today’s children should not be exposed to guns on a daily basis, for that exposure would make guns seem regular and normal. Therefore, in a time of stinging emotion, a teenager would feel comfortable using a weapon. I think the root of this issue lies in the stigmatization of mental health issues and a toxic definition of masculinity.
According to an analysis by the impartial Kaiser Family Foundation, 86 percent of gun deaths in the United States were carried out by men. I think this reveals how society and culture makes men feel that sharing and expressing their emotions is equivalent to weakness. When it is normal to see a boy cry in school or when it’s regular to not just be a stoic personality, men will be free to truly express their thoughts and feelings. Accordingly, emotions will not be bottled up and lead to aggressive actions. I feel that the issue can be addressed for posterity by raising today’s children differently.