New gun bill misses the mark

By Elli Lahdesmaki, Staff Writer

Ever since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead last February, ongoing debates over guns and protection have been circulating. With a 22-17 vote from the state Senate on Sunday, April 21 this year, Florida passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms. This bill, which would only be enacted in schools if their school board allows it, would require 144 hours of firearm training and a psychological test for teachers who want to be armed in the classroom. As said by Republican representative Chuck Barran, “This bill is the ultimate school-hardening law.”

However, schools don’t need a “school-hardening” law. Schools should be a place where students go to learn, while feeling safe in the environment that they are in. Allowing teachers to have guns in classrooms is both unnecessary and dangerous.

The conversation about teachers and guns has been going around for a while, but I never thought that any state government would believe that arming teachers would be a sound solution to help save student lives. Apparently, I was wrong. Passing this bill to protect the students in school shootings seems to be more of a knee-jerk reaction, and instead of bringing protection, it brings fear and danger to a regular school day.

As Parkland shooting survivor Sari Kaufman said, “Now, I’m scared for the next generation of students who will grow up afraid of gun violence in their schools, not just from a shooter, but from the guns that could be carried by their teachers.”

My fear is that even with the required training, teachers won’t know how to act if a gunman enters the classroom. And they can’t be expected to. It’s unlikely that a teacher is trained to handle the emotional and mental aspect of shooting a gunman, which could result in students being caught in the crossfire. If teachers don’t know how to properly act with a gun, arming them is a useless and precarious proposal.

Only professionals, such as the SWAT and police officers, should be responsible for jobs that can potentially put students’ and teachers’ lives at risk. After all, the job of teachers is to teach, not to learn how to properly use a gun. Arming teachers with guns is not the solution to school shootings. The solution is stricter gun laws and schools cultivating an environment focused on improving mental health.

The problem in our country with school shootings is how easily accessible guns are. Too frequently, dangerous people are able to get ahold of deadly weapons. Since the problem is too many guns, why are we trying to fix the problem with even more guns?

According to the Brady Campaign, a non-profit organization that advocates for gun control, expanding background checks would make sure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands. Currently, there are many loopholes that make it easier for people to get guns without having the necessary background checks. Loopholes, such as the private seller loophole, allow for some to sell their guns to buyers who have not gone through a federal background check. This is not only dangerous, but unacceptable.

Further, instead of arming teachers to protect students during a school shooting, we should focus on preventing the shootings before they can happen. To lower the amount of students becoming school shooters, we need improve the social and emotional health in schools. This includes having more access to psychiatrists, therapists and counselors in all schools, for all students. Having socially healthy and safe environments at schools would foster a more positive community, allowing more students to speak out to trusted adults and teachers about personal threats or struggles.  By reducing the amount of students feeling ostracized and providing all students with a safe atmosphere, we can reduce the amount of school shootings from happening in the first place.

Additionally, thousands of teenagers and high school students are already fighting against arming teachers and for stricter gun laws, and this is important. Protests, walk-outs, posters, speeches and even social media posts are all steps towards a gun-free future. By speaking on this and informing the public on the dangers of arming teachers, we can prevent this from happening again in other states, including ours.

I don’t want to see the day where I go to school knowing that there is a loaded gun in the room where I’m learning to conjugate verbs or writing an in-class essay. Teachers should be armed with textbooks, not loaded guns.