Arming Teachers Is a Bullshit Solution to What Went Wrong at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Thanks to the never-ending churn of our political landscape that has yet to stop lighting itself on fire each and every day, it’s almost criminally easy to forget that earlier this year the deadliest high school shooting in American history took place in Parkland, Fla. In the aftermath, we praised the fiery and amazing students, who went through an ordeal that would’ve rattled seasoned combat vets, as they came out swinging at the NRA and its unrelenting death grip on all levels of government. Learning goddamn algebra shouldn’t require constant armed vigilance, but that’s a feature, not a bug of the gun lobby’s efforts to keep the 2nd amendment firmly chained to America’s neck. These kids saw perfectly through that shit, and they weren’t having it.
But then we lost interest. Sure, maybe we retweeted David Hogg or Emma González here and there, but let’s be frank. We left these kids to the devices of grownups who failed them in virtually every way possible, and now that failure has reached a maddening crescendo of American stupidity.
From the AP:
The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre recommended Wednesday that teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted 13-1 to recommend the Legislature allow the arming of teachers, saying it’s not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus. Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead allows districts to arm non-teaching staff members such as principals, librarians and custodians — 13 of the 67 districts do, mostly in rural parts of the state.
Let me be absolutely clear: Arming teachers will do jackshit to stop school shootings. It is a moron’s solution, but one with a bullshit veneer of down-home “common sense,” so it will never die. It’s the equivalent of slapping duct tape on a problem. Only in this case, when the duct tape fails, somebody’s kid gets shot. It’s a terrible burden to place on educators, and at this stage, the obvious dangers of adding more guns to the problem are a quick Google search away even though they should be readily apparent.
Just to put a point on the fallacy of a good guy with a gun, last month, trained police officers responded to the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and while exchanging shots with the shooter, one of the cops was killed — by friendly fire. On the off-chance you don’t know that that means, he was shot by another cop because mass shootings are fucking chaos. Ask most officers or military vets, and they’ll tell you that no one can predict how they’ll react in a combat situation even with all of the training in the world. Which is why you often have veterans advocating against arming teachers because they recognize both the logistical murderbox it creates for everyone involved and the detriment to America’s youth if you force educators to adopt the mindset of a soldier. Are you gonna argue with the troops like some sort of kneeling football player?
Granted, there have been extremely rare occasions where armed civilians have stopped a shooting, and the Washington Post did a thorough job interviewing two men who thwarted a bar shooter in Oklahoma. To be clear, these men acted bravely, but from hearing both of their sides of the story, it’s readily apparent that the two of them could have very easily shot each other and/or been shot by the police, who now had three shooters when they arrived on the scene. So while it was a tale of heroism, it was equally a tale of incredible luck that absolutely no one should bank on.
But here’s why arming teachers is particularly horseshit when it comes to the Parkland shooting: Adults from administrators to the sheriff’s department failed these kids at every possible turn. What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High wasn’t the result of a lack of guns. It was the result of untrained grown-ups lazily kicking a can down the road until that can showed up on campus with an AR-15. And even then it was kicked down the road some more.
Max Schachter lost his son Alex in the shooting, and he’s been fighting to make sure other parents never experience the same nightmare. He’s also the only member of the Public Safety Commission who voted against arming teachers because a glimpse at Schachter’s Twitter account, which I highly recommend, shows a man who is determined to bring accountability to every person who failed to stop Nikolas Cruz. And there is an ocean of blame to go around.
For starters, Marjory Stoneman Douglas administrators knew Cruz was a ticking time bomb thanks to numerous reports of threatened violence, including rape, but there was a glaring lack of training and protocol on what to do with him. Despite assuring parents that Cruz would be transferred to an “alternative school,” administrators bungled the problem all the way up to the moment when a security monitor let Cruz waltz right past him holding a goddamn rifle bag.
From the Sun-Sentinel:
“These are very low-paid, rank-and-file employees that had no clear job duties, that had no clear training, that are unarmed civilians. I’m a little concerned about saying: ‘You failed. You did something inappropriate.’… These are system failures we’re talking, not necessarily personal failures. If they [sic] been properly trained, if they had clear job responsibilities, they might have acted differently.”
Others said no training is required to do the obvious and right thing when you see a known problem teenager show up with a rifle bag.
“If you see somebody with a gun bag coming into school, any decent human being is going to try to stop him,” said Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was killed in the attack. “He did nothing to stop the slaughter of all these innocent people. He’s the one who could have stopped it.”
The school had also dropped the ball on preparing for an active shooter situation. Outside of a PowerPoint presentation, teachers had no training for a “Code Red,” and the building lacked a PA system in the hallways to initiate a lockdown, which directly resulted in students being shot. It was a colossal failure on every level, and it had nothing to do with being a “gun-free zone.” And when the guns did show up, they chickened right the hell out.
As most people know, sheriff’s deputy and armed school resource officer Scot Peterson was on campus when Cruz started shooting. Instead of confronting Cruz, Peterson not only hid, but has the balls to argue in court that he had “no legal duty” to protect students and faculty from harm, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Fortunately, a judge has seen differently. But Peterson wasn’t alone in failing to stop Cruz.
The Miami New Times reports:
The list of failures by the agency is long. Six deputies, including school resource officer Scot Peterson, didn’t enter the building during the massacre even though they heard gunshots. Some of them wasted valuable minutes putting on vests; one deputy actually asked another to wait with him. After the vests were on, the deputies still didn’t do what their training dictated: enter the building and neutralize the threat.
Though on paper they were up-to-date on training, several deputies in later interviews with the MSD commission said they couldn’t remember when they last had active-shooter training or what was taught. The commission found training inadequate.
The BSO commanding officer, Capt. Jan Jordan, responded to the wrong building and spent eight minutes there. Her first radio call wasn’t to order the deputies to go in as their training dictated; it concerned setting up a perimeter. When she finally responded to the correct building, she hid behind a patrol car with other deputies while Coral Springs Police officers pushed into the building. Other deputies described her as “overwhelmed,” “ineffective,” and in a “trance-like state” during the chaos.
Jesus Christ. And it actually gets worse.
As of this week, the head of the Public Safety Commission doesn’t think Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel should be forced to resign for the Keystone Kops clusterfuck that left 17 students dead under his command. Instead, that very same commission has now voted that clearly the solution is arming teachers and hoping to God one of them is secretly Rambo. Not gun control. Not holding administrators and law enforcement accountable for catastrophic negligence. Just add more guns to the mix.
You couldn’t fail these kids any harder if you shot them yourself.
Header Image Source: Getty