Possible Consequences of Arming Teachers

Guns in schools endanger teachers and students.

Posted Feb 28, 2018

Schools should think carefully before they allow armed teachers in their schools.  Some possible consequences are: 

1.  An increase in the frequency and intensity of discipline problems.  The research conducted by Leonard Berkowitz (Berkowitz & LePage, 1967) indicates that the presence of a gun in a room increases the frequency and intensity of aggressive behavior.  Berkowitz demonstrated “the weapons effect” that participants engaged in more severe aggressive behavior when they see a gun than when they see a tennis racket.  The mere presence of a weapon tends to trigger aggression (Carlson, Marcus-Newhall, & Miller, 1990).  Students, just being aware that a gun is in the room, may increase the aggressiveness of their behavior, which may endanger classmates and teachers. 

2.  An increase in teacher aggression towards students, colleagues, and parents.  Hemenway, Vriniotis, and Miller (2006), in a study of a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 American drivers, found that those who had a gun in the car were significantly more likely to make obscene gestures at other motorists and aggressively follow another vehicle too closely.  Teachers may behave more aggressively towards other people they interact with when they have access to a gun. 

3.  Students trying to steal the gun from the teacher.  Certain students may try to steal the teacher’s gun, taking it by force or burglarizing the teacher’s desk.  There may be more school break-ins in order to obtain the guns. 

4.  Teachers being at risk when police enter the building.  When a police office enters a building where there is a suspected shooting going on, the officer is likely to shoot anyone he or she sees holding a gun.  Teachers with guns may be shot by mistake by anxious police officers. 

5.  Teachers being perceived as “cold-blooded killers” who have no hesitation in shooting another person.  Arming teachers may change the perception of teachers by students, colleagues, parents, and community members.  A teacher’s competence may be determined by how willing a teacher is to kill another human being.  A teacher’s job description may include being willing to kill someone the teacher believes is threatening the safety of the teacher and students. 

6.  Teachers self-esteem may be affected by how able they are to handle a weapon.  Some teachers may even seek out opportunities to demonstrate how skillfully they can use a gun.  Doing so endangers the lives of students and colleagues and any strangers who happen to enter the building. 

In addition, there is an assumption that the training teachers receive in using a gun will not decay over time.  Years after the teacher has been trained to use a gun, will the teacher still react correctly in a few seconds when an emergency situation arises?  Most people who carry a gun will never need to use it for self-protection over their lifetime.  Over a 45 year career, how often will a mass-murderer enter a teacher’s school?  For most teachers, it will never happen. But if it does, will the training still be effective.  

There is considerable downside to arming teachers will guns.  The dangers of doing so far outweigh the potential advantages.  What will make schools safer is for Congress to ban all assault weapons and require a license to own a gun.  It is the failure of our government that is the problem, not the absence of guns in schools. 

References

Berkowitz, L., & LePage, A. (1967). Weapons as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 202–207. 

Carlson, M., Marcus-Newhall, A., & Miller, N. (1990). Effects of situational aggression cues: A quantitative review. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 622–633. 

Hemenway, D., Vriniotis, M., & Miller, M. (2006). Is an armed society a polite society? Guns and road rage. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 38(4), 687–695.