I’m a teacher. I teach part-time in a community college and part-time in an elementary/middle school. This means I spend a lot of time practicing lockdown drills and watching safety videos. During our most recent video viewing, my college students decided the filing cabinet awkwardly placed in the middle of our classroom would be what they’d use to block to door should a shooter ever come through the school. Whenever someone in one of my classes says something like this, I imagine we’re all thinking the same thing: I know they’re joking, but let’s all make sure to remember that suggestion, okay?
Then another school shooting happens. And the next day we all look real hard at that filing cabinet in the corner of the room.
Every time another school shooting happens—and I can’t believe I even have to type out that phrase—people start talking about how teachers need to start carrying guns. But after the Florida shooting this past week, that suggestion seems to be coming up more than I’ve ever heard it before. Suddenly the whole internet wants me to bring my own AR-15 into my fifth grade reading class. I guess I’ll just keep it next to our copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
More than ever this sentiment—that I should be expected to arm myself in my own classrooms—is ratcheting up my blood pressure. I’ve written before about how I’m not anti-gun. Neither is my husband, an army vet and gun owner who now works in the same community college I do. Neither of us think the second amendment needs to be struck down. But both of us want reasonable gun control measures in place that would keep our students and our schools safe. Neither one of us understands why this country thinks that arming our teachers is somehow a better solution than keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists like the Parkland shooter. Neither of us understands why, instead, everyone want to talk about how teachers should carry semi-automatic weapons around with us while we try to teach things like Aristotelian appeals.
Here are just a few of the reasons my blood pressure is so high right now.
First. I am not a person you want carrying a loaded weapon around your children. I can spot a comma splice from a mile away, but I can barely tie my shoes without falling over. This plan likely won’t end well for any of us.
Second. There was an armed guard at Parkland. It didn’t make any difference. Every teacher in that school followed protocol and did everything right. They, like the rest of us teachers and students, have gone through hours of lockdown and shooter drills. They knew exactly what to do. But that shooter knew what their drills were, and like the terrorist that he was, he destroyed all their protocols and used them against his victims—because that’s what terrorists with deadly weapons do. That’s why we need to make it hard for terrorists to get access to deadly weapons.
Third. Don’t I get a say in this? You keep shouting about how I need to be armed and you’ve never even asked me if I want to be. I didn’t join the military or the police force, and neither of those decisions were by accident. And even my husband, who is trained in tactical maneuvers and very good with a weapon, wants nothing to do with bringing a gun into his classroom. YOU DIDN’T EVEN ASK US. Every day we go into classrooms and get paid basically in Monopoly money to potentially throw ourselves in front of your children should a shooter barge into a classroom—and a lot of us would probably do it in a heartbeat. But what the hell am I being asked to make that sacrifice for? What are you honestly asking me to die for here? My students and I are supposed to lay down our lives so that you can keep complete and total access to weapons that no hunter or sportsperson ever actually needs to own? So that you can pretend you have a means of fighting back against a government that has nuclear weapons? So that gun manufacturers can continue to disgustingly twist the second amendment in order to make as much money as possible? Or are you just asking us to sacrifice our lives so that you can keep your hobby?
Nope. Please stop asking me to die for that. Please stop asking my husband to die for that. Please stop asking my students to die for that.
Stop telling me I need a weapon in my classroom. I don’t. I need fellow Americans who care more about my students than they do about themselves and their gun collections. I need fellow Americans who will stop putting this problem onto me and put it back where it belongs: on the people in Washington, who are so bought and paid for by the NRA that they can’t even talk about gun violence without sounding like hostages. I need fellow Americans who aren’t so enchanted by gun manufacturers that they honestly think the solution here is putting a gun in the hands of an English teacher and asking her to train for days and weeks and months on how and when to use it as opposed to training on, I dunno, teaching reading.
And if you disagree with me, please don’t even comment on this article. I’m done with conversations on this topic, and I’m done with debate. I’m the one walking into my classroom every day, so I get the final say here. And you know what my answer is? NO. I will not arm myself in my classroom. And the day I’m forced to is the day I leave this profession for good.
You can find someone else to teach your kid how to read. I hope they’re willing to die for your love of that high-capacity magazine.