Opinion

CON: Arm teachers with books, not guns

Guns at school? Here’s what NC’s teachers had to say.

The mass shooting at a Parkland high school has reignited the debate about arming teachers at schools. Our Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll shows North Carolina teachers think that's a bad idea.
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The mass shooting at a Parkland high school has reignited the debate about arming teachers at schools. Our Elon University/News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll shows North Carolina teachers think that's a bad idea.

Randolph County Republican Sen.. Jerry Tillman was deservedly excoriated when he put forth a bill that would allow some teachers to bring guns into the classroom in case a gunman attacked.

But when Mark Jewell, head of N.C. Association of Educators, said he, too, thought legislators should arm teachers, that was a head-scratcher. But Jewell quickly clarified his point. He wants the General assembly to arm teachers with school counselors, nurses and social workers, pencils and paper and supplies and textbooks and technology.

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NC Sen. Jerry Tillman, right, has proposed a bill to pay teachers to carry guns in schools. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

“We say ‘If you want to pay us an extra five percent” ’— Tillman’s bill would pay a bonus to teachers who tote — “pay us for the masters degree that you took away from us in 2013.”

“It’s really disappointing,”Jewell said, “that this came from Tillman, who is a retired principal. It’s a really bad, dangerous piece of legislation. Guns don’t belong in schools. Period.”

Jewell is, of course, correct. Teachers need, want and deserve more money and respect, but — hear me out now — I think Tillman’s “School Self-Defense Act” could provide both. It just didn’t go far enough: Instead of giving teachers the option of “to be or not to be” strapped, being strapped should be mandatory.

You read that right: every graduate who aspires to teach, upon receiving her or his diploma, should be required to go out back behind the auditorium and take a marksmanship test. They could, for instance, be required to shoot an apple off the top of the head of any legislator who favors this bill.

Not only that, but they should get extra pay the bigger their weapon is. After all, a teacher carrying a .22 can’t expect to receive the same payment as one with a .38 in her lunchbox, can she?

What about the teacher who brings a bazooka for maximum protection, or a surface-to-air missile? Wouldn’t he deserve more than one who thinks he can stop a marauding gunman with a mere .357?

As far as respect is concerned — do you think a teacher who enters the classroom lugging a surface-to-air missile wouldn’t have that?

In a recent News & Observer interview, Tillman said his Torpedoes for Teachers program “is an idea whose time has come.”

And as we all know, nothing, as Victor Hugo wrote, is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

Never mind that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to which they point often as a perfect example of why we need to turn schools into armed encampments, had an armed — albeit duty-duckin’ — deputy on site.

That didn’t prevent a gunman from killing 17 people.

Never mind, also, that the Washington Post, in studying U.S. Education Department records since the Columbine School massacre in 1999, puts the statistical likelihood of a student being killed at school by a gun on any given day at 614,000,000 to 1.

Tillman still wants harried, overworked teachers who haven’t taken an oath to “serve and protect” to instantly transform into Dirty Harry the instant an armed threat arises.

Go ahead, punk. Make Mrs. Neimeyer’s day.

Nope, that couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Here’s another benefit if Tillman’s bill passes: You know that teacher shortage we’ve been complaining about in North Carolina as other states come in and poach ours with offers of higher pay?

That’d be a thing of the past. Other states’s reps will instantly stop crossing the state line to recruit the teachers we’ve educated and trained, lest they receive a load of buckshot in their abacuses.

Also, it could be an effective recruiting tool.

Lemme get this straight, hoss. Y’all gon’ pay me to carry a gun as I go about a decidedly non-threatening job on the one-in-614-million chance there’ll be an attack?

Where do I sign?

Barry Saunders of Durham is a former metro columnist for The News & Observer. This commentary originally appeared on his blog, thesaundersreport.com

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