VOICES: Bulletproofing schools: Feel good or foolhardy?

Editor’s Note: This piece is in response to Wednesday’s contributed column.

Bulletproofing school facilities and arming teachers is a “do something” response to outraged citizens. Such actions may feel good but have little potential to make children safer. In fact, positioning guns inside schools creates the same scenario as unsecured guns in homes — the opportunity for intentional and unintentional shootings, too often by children themselves.

It’s Hollywood-style fantasy to imagine armed teachers quick-drawing weapons, dropping into a shooter’s crouch and taking out a gunman. Soldiers can attest to the likelihood of surviving an assault weapon attack when armed with a pistol. Landing a shot is difficult, as we witnessed at the Tops Grocery slaughter when a veteran officer fired eleven shots and failed to take down the shooter. That policeman was killed by return fire. Of course, we’d all like to believe we would summon the courage to confront a shooter, but the reality is multiple officers in Uvalde sworn to “protect and serve” did not do so.

Digging deeper, unless every teacher is armed, the well-prepared shooter will have “cased” his target and chosen a classroom with an unarmed teacher. This leaves teachers — who will be lightly armed and not wearing body armor — to race down the hall and take on a body-armored shooter who has an assault weapon. Of course, shooters are irrational, not stupid; they don’t need access to buildings since students assemble at numerous outside locations, at predictable times, every day.

There’s also the problem of where to keep weapons. It’s difficult to pull off a Bruce Willis-style maneuver with your gun locked in a desk drawer. But mixing unsecured guns with children is a deadly scenario, as we’ve learned from all the dads who’ve left “self-defense” weapons unsecured around curious children, resulting in accidental killings of siblings, neighbors or themselves. Or in the armed teacher scenario, a classmate. According to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, 70% of unintentional shootings by children occur at home.

Perhaps teachers could keep weapons on their hips? That’s an image: A third grade teacher leaning over to help with a subtraction problem with a gun at a little girl’s eye level. As for older students intent on committing murder, they’ll no longer need to devise ways to get guns into school: Just sneak up behind a teacher — who is busy teaching — grab the gun and start firing.

Gun violence in the U.S far exceeds levels in any other developed nation. According to a Rockefeller Institute of Government report, more guns correlate to more deaths. Any rational effort to curtail mass shootings must include restricting access to guns.

In the name of public safety and saving children’s lives, we must demand that elected representatives at all levels of government stop kowtowing to those under the spell of the NRA’s ad campaign. We need strong laws that make sense, not more people with guns. Educators aren’t blind and neither are parents. As one teacher succinctly put it, “Because politicians refuse to limit access to assault rifles, you expect me to sign up for combat duty and protect the kids you haven’t.”

Putting political ambition ahead of children’s safety — and lives — reeks of sulfur. The sacrifice is too great.

Charles Cornett, Ph.D., is a retired Clark County Schools superintendent who lives in Dayton.

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