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Second Amendment logic: The arming of school teachers



In a controversial paper published in 1981, the international relations theorist, Kenneth Waltz, propounded a view that caused more than a flutter in the academic community. Regarding the issue of addressing a country’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons, he had a startlingly elegant, if awful solution: proliferation, or a more equitable distribution of such armaments, would eliminate the issue of insecurity.

In his piece, Waltz saw nuclear weapons, despite being existentially devastating, as a force ‘working for peace in the post-war world’, making ‘the cost of war seem frighteningly high’ and prohibitive to states starting conflicts that might lead to their use. ‘The likelihood for war decreases as deterrent and defensive capabilities increase.’

In the context of mass school shootings in the United States, the latest of which took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a crude form of Waltzian deterrence has made an appearance.  To be safer, you do not remove guns, but spread them through a policy of mutually assured terror. Any gun toting individual entering the school grounds will think twice before encountering the hail of bullets from a protective teacher. Gun control, accordingly, becomes anathema.

In the aftermath of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Florida, an event that left 17 dead, President Donald Trump floated this very idea on live television. Just as allowing airline pilots to carry and conceal guns had worked as a measure, educators could follow a similar path. It would have aided football coach Aaron Feis, who, instead of using his body as a shield to protect a student, could ‘have shot [the shooter], and that would have been the end of it.’

The National Rifle Association wholeheartedly agreed, if only because Trump was expressing a view held by its members for years. In February 2018, in an address to the Conservative Political Action conference, Wayne Lapierre, head of the NRA, described schools as ‘virtually wide-open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murders.’ Making places of learning sound like vulnerable military targets, he advised that, ‘Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country.’


'In dealing with school safety, why not furnish educators, not with more weapons and defensive positions, but resources for learning and wellbeing?'


With this extravagantly dangerous appraisal of school security, it follows that the shooting problem can be resolved by flooding the school administrative system with guns and training, effectively militarising an already desperately insecure education system. This is a view not lacking some support. In a 2021 Pew Research poll, 43 per cent of respondents favoured allowing K-12 teachers and school officials to carry guns. Of the percentage, 66 per cent of them were Republicans; 24 per cent Democrats. 63 per cent of gun owners supported the measure; 33 per cent of non-gun owners did not. 

Regarding the 19 children and two adults killed by a lone gunman at Robb Elementary School, a number of politicians made their positions clear. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, using reasons long endorsed by the NRA, opined that, ‘what stops armed bad guys is armed good guys’. But in identifying such a simple binary, Cruz also thought it logical to see the ‘bad’ gun holder as mentally, and socially crippled. In his words to the NRA, ‘many of those who commit the most heinous crimes’ were ‘isolated from human contact’ and ‘living a virtual life in the absence of community, faith and love.’

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his colleague Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were of like mind. In an interview with Fox News, Paxton rued the fact that, ‘We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things.’  But one could ‘potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly.’ 

Statements from Patrick responding to school safety in the aftermath of the Uvalde shootings suggest countering an insurgency, rather than a pressing social problem requiring educational, and educated solutions. His statement of June 3 might just as well apply to equipping a US counter-insurgency operation in the Middle East. ‘If every member of law enforcement across the state, approximately 80,000 officers, had a bulletproof shield in their vehicle, their ability to respond to an active shooter situation would be greatly enhanced.’ The mind boggles as to what scenarios might be played out.

Using the language of military preparation, Patrick talks about the need of ‘more training’ and the urgency of having more security measures in place before the start of the school year. But he admitted that certain problems might plague the effort. ‘There could be a supply-chain issue at present, but we should try to buy every quality shield we can find and order the rest so we are at the front line when more become available.’ 

These were not measures that impressed Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. Her statement in response to shootings could only seem strange in a world shaped by the NRA, Cruz and his colleagues. ‘Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence.’

Dispirited by the debate, Houston middle-school teacher Daniel Siegel put forth an idea that rarely reaches the wavelength of NRA rhetoric and Second Amendment posturing. In dealing with school safety, why not furnish educators, not with more weapons and defensive positions, but resources for learning and wellbeing? This sentiment was an echo to the 2018 Florida shootings, when one teacher simply but eloquently stated she be armed, not with guns, but with books. A radical proposal, and not one seeding well in the current climate.    





Dr Binoy Kampmark is a former Commonwealth Scholar who lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

Main image: Law enforcement officers speak together outside of Robb Elementary School following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Binoy Kampmark, Second Amendment, School Shootings, Uvalde, Gun Control, NRA



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Existing comments

My natural inclination in reply to this fine writing by Binoy is to pound on the keyboard to say “wake up, America. You are killing your children” or even more heated language. Thankfully, I have some words from St Catherine of Siena which seem appropriate: With kindness and pity beyond words, the Eternal Father gazed on my soul and began to speak: ‘My dearest daughter, I am fully resolved to show mercy to the world and to provide for men under all circumstances. But man in his ignorance turns into a deadly thing what I bestow on him that he may live, and so proves cruel towards himself. I continue to provide for him. I would have you know this: whatever I allot to man comes from my most provident care.’

Pam | 21 June 2022  

It’s not Waltzian deterrence, but useless, corrupt government that encourages arming teachers.
Police at Robb Elementary School had enough firepower and protection to enter the school, but contrary to accepted protocols, waited an hour while teachers and students were murdered. Frantic parents who begged the police to go in were handcuffed and pepper-sprayed (like Victorian Covid police?). Released from handcuffs, Angeli Rose Gomez jumped the fence and rescued her two children herself.
Alerted by his teacher wife while having a haircut, Jacob Albarado grabbed the barber’s shotgun, drove to the school, and rescued his wife, daughter and others. He angrily declared: “Hopefully…teachers will be trained and allowed to carry in order to protect themselves and students.”
So what happened, when a generation ago children took guns in buses to school to practice on rifle ranges? Then they were taught right and wrong. Now, nihilism has been mainstreamed, and moral restraining backstops developed over centuries destroyed.
America’s extreme-Left teacher unions promote abortion, transgenderism, anti-family ideology, neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory and defunding the police, and they urged the Justice Department to label as “domestic terrorists” parents who protest this indoctrination.
Artfully, the union solution is more “resources” for their malevolent agenda.

Ross Howard | 22 June 2022  
Show Responses

And all of this gun violence occurs in what is, and claims to be, a seriously Christian country where 'in God we trust'. If this was happening in a seriously Islamic, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist country, we might put it down to religion, or at least to an abuse of religion. Why shouldn't we do the same for the USA?

Ginger Meggs | 28 June 2022  

The logic underpinning the Second Amendment is that one political generation of the historical population of a jurisdiction can make a declaration which binds all future generations, or, at least, make it very difficult for them to undo or change the declaration.

Coming up soon is that one political generation of the historical population of Australia, the political generation existing within the term of the 47th federal parliament, or perhaps the generation that will exist within the term of the 48th federal parliament, can bind all future generations by declaring that Aborigines will perpetually remain disadvantaged and will require a constitutionally-embedded ‘Voice’ to the Commonwealth Parliament.

Apparently, a right to vote implies that an elector also has the ability to prophesy --- among other things, that Aborigines will never catch up to the descendants of the likes of the Biloela family.

Prophecy, as a faculty of the spiritual realm, should be left to Scripture and Tradition instead of being rendered to Caesar.

roy chen yee | 22 June 2022  

I am a retired secondary school teacher who spent thirty plus years teaching adolescents . About 13 of those years was in a single sex, all male school . Back in those days any threats to teachers from male students were verbal, rather than physical, particularly after corporal punishment was outlawed, when it became quite an issue. These days with the Internet and mobile phones, it must be a much larger problem for today's teachers. The thought of teachers being armed in a classroom scares the hell out of me! Having served in the Australian Army, I am very aware of the killing capacity of military style weapons .
Thank God that we have never gone down the American path.

Gavin O'Brien | 23 June 2022  

More power to your critical elbow, Binoy! The logic underpinning this decision is Kafkaesque.

Michael Furtado | 24 June 2022  

Binoy this opinion today from an environmental scientist Sonny Maher (ex St Kevins) living in Baltimore.

"As to guns and gun violence, the USA is going rapidly in reverse with the handbrake slightly on; a modest gun safety bill just passed the senate. The marketers of guns have cleverly tied gun ownership to religiosity and identity, and so common sense, facts, and analysis don't stand much of a chance. It has gotten so silly that congress has, at the behest of the NRA, blocked the CDC from studying gun safety as a public health issue. There is a clear correlation between the prevalence of guns and death or injury by firearms when the USA is compared with other countries. Gun owners here believe that gun ownership is divinely inspired. The Supreme Court just overturned a NY law stopping people from openly carrying in public. It really will end up like the Wild West here, based on current projections. The worst part for me is that people like Alex Jones of Info-Wars notoriety, accused parents of Sandy Hook primary school children massacred by a gun-toting lunatic of fabricating the whole tragedy to effect gun control. That is as satanic as Putin's war on Ukraine."
The USA is on a knife-edge at present. The question is does a majority want to live under an autocracy or the type of republic that Benjamin Franklin warned at the founding would be hard to keep. Hopefully, the carnival-barking huckster Donald Trump will be criminally prosecuted by the Department of Justice, and the country will remain a country of laws and not become one of men.

Francis Armstrong | 25 June 2022  

What do you do about a law which exposes children to risk? Guns, scalpels: is there really a difference between the two for the Left?

roy chen yee | 25 June 2022