- President Donald Trump has been talking up the idea of arming teachers to defend against school shooters, but it’s a risky strategy at best.
- The best-case scenario envisioned by Trump is for teachers to have gunfights at school with potential shooters.
- The worst-case scenario is a proliferation of firearms across the US’s classrooms and an increase in gun deaths at school due to their increased presence.
President Donald Trump has floated and defended the idea of training and arming US school teachers in the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, but the idea has almost no upside.
Trump described a plan to arm the best, most capable teachers — which he estimated would be about 20% of teachers — so they could deter or stop school shootings in progress.
Though Trump has not committed to the idea, he tweeted that it would “solve the problem instantly.” But there’s little to no evidence to back that up.
In 2009, a gunmen attacked Fort Hood, a US military base in Texas, killing 13. The shooter was undeterred by the presence of the armed, trained US Army. In 2014, it happened again at the same military base.
Among the police and US military — groups that are exhaustively trained in firearms safety — accidental discharges of guns happen frequently. Among teachers who already have a demanding full time job, having a gun would add an awesome responsibility to their already stacked list of tasks.
In an ideal world, arming teachers is still bad
For the idea to demonstrably work, teachers would have to shoot and stop school shooters in the act. For the idea to fail, a single errant discharge, theft of a gun, or mistake in the gun’s handling would be too dear a price.
Under the best-case scenario, a school shooter is storming a school, and a teacher with training and a gun would confront them. The best-case scenario here is a gunfight between teachers and armed assailants at a school, where teachers have arsenals that can match those of potential attackers on standby, and the teacher wins.
Indoors, pistols may suffice, but should teachers have long guns to fight off attackers at a distance? Body armor to engage them? A federal push to arm teachers would have to grapple with that question.
In the worst-case scenario, careful school shooters will avoid classes they know to be armed and teachers they know to have weapons. They still can prey on under-defended schools, and guns proliferate across classrooms around the US. Guns are misused and fall into the wrong hands. Those who wish to do violence to schools may now opt to use bombs or inflict death without gunplay. The problem of violent deaths in schools may get worse.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Associated Press that arming teachers is “one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas.”
Victims want fewer, not more guns in school
To Trump’s credit, he does appear to be looking for a solution for the epidemic of school shootings that’s unique to the US. Trump has expressed support for other forms of gun regulation and control that could curb people’s access to dangerous weapons.
Across the US, some schools do allow armed school staff, but they decided on those positions themselves. It’s a losing gambit for Trump to try to assert some federal policy that could easily lead to an increase in gun deaths at school.
But if Trump really paid attention to the student protests flaring up in the US, he would have heard that they’d like fewer, not more guns in schools.