Teachers with weapons? A conflict of mindsets

In the aftermath of recent school shootings, some have questioned whether or not teachers in schools should be armed. The argument for teachers carrying handguns relies on the belief that educators are the first line of protection for students in their care. Those who advocate for gun-toting teachers argue that—with the right training in operation and weapons safety—the men and women whom we pay to enrich the lives of our children might also save their lives one day.
Most police chiefs and sheriffs disagree with arming teachers, and as the experts in lethal force, they have valid reasons for doing so. Police officers, who must qualify at a pistol range on a regular basis, still hit their human targets only about 17% of the time, a nationwide statistic that does not vary much from year to year.
I believe I am one of only a few college professors who have shot another human being. As a narcotics agent with the California Department of Justice in my previous life, I had the occasion to shoot a suspect who was trying to kill my partner and me. The suspect missed—I did not. I later taught handgun training at a pistol range, and despite my 21 years of law enforcement and my so-called expertise with handguns, I still do not want to carry a gun as a professor.
What pro-gun advocates fail to consider is the role of mindset—the kind of mindset that is required for one to be proficient with a weapon. As an on-duty cop I was able to fire my weapon almost without thinking. My actions were a result of years of training and a state of mind that put me on alert. That mindset is not the mindset of a teacher and never should be. We ask our children’s educators to enrich their minds and help them find their way in the world. I, for one, think that doing that job well requires a mindset of a very different focus. My own experiences as a cop convince me that most Americans prefer to give teachers the freedom to teach—without their having to worry about being ready to kill.

Laurie Woods, PhD, teaches criminal justice at Trevecca Nazarene University.