I have been quiet on the whole gun control/arming the teachers debate, because I wanted to make sure that I thought about it before going off half-cocked; plus, I was a little busy recently, making sure my school was a safe place for our kids following some social media threats.
Let me start by saying that I just completed my 27th year as a professional educator. It is not my job; it is my calling.
Let me also say that I am a proud alumnus of New Mexico Military Institute. NMMI has produced brilliant leaders in all walks of life since 1891, and I am proud to consider all NMMI graduates my brothers and sisters; there is a camaraderie among graduates that you only understand if you have been a part of it.
Given the military aspect of NMMI, it is not surprising that many of the most fervent advocates of guns that I know (besides my father) are NMMI grads. Many of these individuals have voiced support for arming teachers or other ways of making sure that guns are accessible in schools should there be an attack such as those that took place in Aztec or Florida.
I love my NMMI brothers, but I have to say that giving teachers guns, and putting guns in schools, is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.
There are several reasons for this:
• There are school buildings with no heat and undrinkable water. We can’t provide adequate facilities, but we’re going to pay for weapons and training?
• I needed an English teacher since September. I have needed a science teacher since last school year. Teachers are difficult to find. Giving them weapons will not make them easier to find; on the contrary, many will leave the profession and have voiced that concern. I don’t need anyone doing things that are going to make it more difficult for me to find teachers.
• I have had teachers manage to injure themselves with an electric hole punch. I don’t want those people anywhere near a gun. Would you?
• Just because someone is willing to volunteer to carry or train to carry does not mean that, as a principal, I want that person to carry or be trained to carry. If a teacher can’t keep track of a cellphone, I sure as hell don’t want to be wondering if he or she can keep track of their weapon. And if they’re a hothead who has regular conflicts with students or staff members, is it a good idea for that person to have a weapon? I’m thinking not.
• Just because people have been trained to hit a target at 50 yards or are avid hunters, doesn’t mean they can effectively neutralize someone who may or may not be returning fire.
• According to school police officers I know, when police enter a building to neutralize a shooter, they’re not going to ask who the good guys and the bad guys are. If you have a weapon, they’re shooting you. Police entering an active-shooter situation aren’t going to parse out who should and shouldn’t have a weapon, and expecting them to is silly. If you’re willing to carry, are you prepared for that?
• Until an active shooter scenario actually takes place, you have no idea how any given individual will react. When an armed teacher sees that a shooter is that kid in fourth period who is always polite and comes in to visit every day before school, can she pull the trigger? It’s the same as asking who you want in your foxhole. You. Just. Don’t. Know.
• Last but not least: I believe strongly that effective teaching, and thus effective schools, are based on building relationships. When someone asks me what I want my school to be, I say that I want my school to be a place where students, staff and parents are beating down the doors to get in — not out. Having guns in schools is not conducive to that, and if that’s what schools are to become, they’ll do it without me.
I don’t own guns, for no other reason than they don’t interest me. I don’t believe that the solution to this problem is banning assault weapons, because that horse is out of the barn. I do believe that you should have to do more to purchase a weapon than you currently do, and that any background check process should include a significant wait period so that coordinated police databases (local, state, federal) can be checked. I also believe that mental health services have to be appropriately funded, and people who demonstrate that they need those services should be able to get them.
I don’t believe that anyone needs bump stocks or magazines that hold 100 rounds. Rather than guns in schools, I’d want to see more resources that help us meet the social-emotional needs of our students, armed resource officers in all schools who can provide safety and security to the school community as well as training to staff and students on crisis response, and coordinated training in schools on how to respond to crises such as active shooters.
Finally, I believe the only way forward through this is for people to have civil conversations that don’t degenerate into name-calling and finger-pointing because of partisan political views and childish behavior endorsed and modeled by President Donald Trump. I’m tired of thoughts and prayers, and having faith that God will take care of us. Clearly, that hasn’t worked, and to be frank, I’m not sure why God would be willing to take care of us when we are clearly unwilling and unable to take care of ourselves.
Robert Abney has been an educator and school administrator in New Mexico for many years and recently retired as the proud principal of Los Lunas High School.