February 26, 2018
When Governor Jay Inslee of Washington responded to President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers in our public schools at the National Governors’ Conference, it didn’t take a mind reader or a psychologist to read the president’s body language. Governor Inslee talked about his conversations with teachers and law enforcement professionals who are in the main strongly opposed to the idea.
As Inslee spoke, two things were apparent. The president was struggling mightily to control himself, and he deserves to be acknowledged for keeping his temper in check. On the other hand, it was clear that while he was struggling to present the appearance of listening, he dismissed everything the Governor said.
It’s unfortunate that praising the president this way sounds rather lame, as the bar is so low based on his often demonstrated behavior. If he ultimately influences the Congress to pass meaningful legislation that limits the spread of assault weapons and at least to some degree prevents people who shouldn’t own guns from purchasing them, I will praise him without reservation, but as he so often says, we’ll have to wait and see.
I spend a lot of time in a Florida high school as a volunteer math tutor, and I have been there every day since the Parkland massacre. The experience has been especially poignant because there had been a fatal shooting in which a fourteen year old student who attends that school was killed just a few days earlier. So Parkland occurred against a background of grief and trauma counseling that had already been going on for days.
As a volunteer I got to observe a number of things. First, the students themselves seemed to absorb the shock quite well. I was impressed by their calm demeanor through it all. The only sign I picked up on that anything had changed, was that the group of students I interact with suddenly seemed more involved and committed to succeeding. That means they showed up consistently and on time and were more engaged in what we were doing than I’ve ever seen them. Is there a demonstrable cause and effect between that and Parkland? I’m not qualified to say, but I think so.
Perhaps more important, I have not encountered a single teacher, counselor, or administrator who thinks carrying a gun in school is a good idea. They believe that’s the responsibility of law enforcement, and I agree. Of the many reasons I believe that, I will cite two.
The first is an entirely practical matter. Placing the responsibility for protection on school administrators would be extremely costly. Most school systems are already strapped to meet the basic cost of educating students. If we are serious about “hardening” our schools, whatever measures we take should not be at the mercy of budget politics. Further, if each school was responsible for its own security, resources could not be used efficiently.
School security should be a line item in the budget of every police department. It’s no secret that public safety budgets are easier to defend than school budgets when taxes are debated, especially in states like Florida. We should allow people whose business is security to allocate resources in the best possible way.
Budgets aside, any law enforcement professional will tell you that being trained in the use of firearms doesn’t prepare someone for actually firing at another human being with the intent to kill. Could teachers and administrators pull the trigger if they had to under the stress of an attack? Would their training be enough to make them an effective deterrent? Or would they just get themselves killed and possibly endanger others?
It’s easy for people like the president to make proclamations. I have no idea whether he’s ever fired a gun or whether he understands the first thing about the use of firearms. As far as his public persona goes, the only form of violence he seems to grasp is verbal bullying and legal litigation.
When he said earlier today that he would have personally stormed the school even if he’d been unarmed, comparing himself to the deputies that failed to enter the school, he reached a new high in disingenuous rhetoric. This is the same president who continues to claim that John McCain was not a hero because he was in a POW camp, and he’s the same man who pulled every string imaginable at God knows what cost to avoid serving in the armed forces.
When I hear him say things like that I think, your base may love the tough guy talk, but the rest of us understand it for what it is. As the Parkland students might have said, it’s pure BS.