“Armed guards in schools? We’re not protecting them. We’re robbing them,” charged a principal of a Brooklyn elementary school who did want to be named, but was outraged by the National Rifle Association’s proposal to have armed teachers and armed guards in every school in the nation.
Anti-gun-violence advocates who have fought for decades to have inner-city gun violence addressed almost popped a blood vessel when, in the wake of last month’s fatal shooting of 20 first-graders in Connecticut, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and like-minded supporters called for the introduction of armed teachers and strapped retired officers in every American school.
While New Jersey’s Marlboro school district began 2013 with a single armed officer patroling the school, the Fort Greene elementary school principal noted, “Several years ago, we had a staff member who began to display signs of instability. The teacher became delusional, and even accused another staff member of being the devil. Imagine that teacher with a gun?
“Our children deserve to be protected with love, guidance and appropriate discipline, not armed guards. What are we turning our schools into?”
“I am vehemently opposed to armed teachers in schools under any circumstances,” school principal Adolfo Muhammad told the Amsterdam News. “I believe it exceeds the acceptable amount of power vested in the profession and helps to cultivate the violent nature of the proliferation of guns in America.”
The principal of Bed-Stuy’s Bedford Academy continued, explaining, “I am not opposed to police being in schools, as long as they are community-centered and have a healthy respect for the students and parents and community that they are working in. It would help to break the internal colony theory of the police being an occupying force as opposed to being community partners.”
After LaPierre’s pseudo-press conference a few days after the Lanza massacre, the outcry was immediate, even as LaPierre adamantly defended his position in the press.
“What if when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School … he’d been confronted by qualified armed security?” asked LaPierre. “Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 little kids, that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?”
LaPierre rationalized his proposition by saying, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Mouths agape, lay people, politicians and activists alike were shocked that as the funerals of the 26 people killed by Lanza were proceeding, LaPierre’s first statements still embraced the controversial policies of the NRA.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten slammed Pierre’s “irresponsible” policy, stating, “Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses.”
Chancellor Dennis Walcott was affronted by the NRA’s suggestion. In an emailed statement, he told the AmNews, “A safe learning environment for our students is one of our top priorities. As the largest school district in the country, we know what works. The NRA is wrong. Putting an armed guard in every school building is not the answer. Our schools are safer today than they’ve been in more than a decade thanks to our collaboration with the NYPD, reforms to our discipline code to promote safety, anti-bullying and peer mediation programs, and work to remove illegal guns from the street.”
On the other side though, some do not dismiss the NRA plan completely.
“I absolutely agree that there should be armed guards to protect the buildings, but they should not have any contact with the children,” said Karriem Ahmed, former children’s counselor at the Administration for Children’s Services. “But to have armed teachers is a recipe for disaster. However, armed security exclusively responsible for securing the building while being completely barred from interacting directly with the children may be reasonable.
“When I was at ASC, I worked at a semi-residential facility. There was one private security company where they did have armed guards, whose job was to secure the building from outside invasion or any other threat to the building. They had no interaction with the children. But we also had unarmed peace officers whose job was to manage violent children.”
With 5,000 school safety officers in the city’s public schools, supplemented by 3,000-plus on-call NYPD officers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also slammed the NRA’s idea.
Referencing the NRA press conference where LaPierre proposed the armed teachers and guards concept, Bloomberg said, “The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been as apparent, as [LaPierre’s] press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America, where everyone is armed and no place is safe.
“Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis,” Bloomberg continued. “The NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence. While they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives–not only in schools, but in our movie theaters, malls and streets. Enough.
“As a country, we must rise above special interest politics. Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns. That’s why 74 percent of NRA members support common sense restrictions like criminal background checks for anyone buying a gun. It is time for Americans who care about the Second Amendment and reasonable gun restrictions to join together to work with the president and Congress to stop the gun violence in this country. Demand a plan.”
Despite the fact that some U.S. schools employ armed security, opponents like the Brooklyn principals reject the idea.
“Didn’t Columbine High School have armed guards?” asked the Fort Greene principal. “Didn’t those two maniacs still murder 12 students? As for the NRA and its fearless leader, they are simply about getting more guns into people’s hands. All that does is make for the possibility of these unfortunate incidents to happen regularly.
“The answer to the problem of the occasional attack by the mentally ill is not to condition our children to accept guns in their everyday life, as if we expect the incident that happened in Connecticut to happen on a regular basis. They say that Adam Lanza was mentally disturbed. So instead of pushing guns on our school corridors, what we need to focus on is how to develop some reforms for servicing the mentally ill.”