Growing up, like most kids my age in America, I was no stranger to lockdown drills. The sad possibility that an active shooter would step foot on school grounds was something that middle and high school administrators instilled in our young brains. I was twelve when I first became aware of school shootings. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, my school implemented lockdown drills, where we would have 2 minutes to run in a classroom, turn off the lights, and hide along the walls in a crouched position with our heads buried between our legs. Minutes later, we would hear a message on the intercom saying, “All clear, the drill is over.” I never really considered the day that these drills may become a reality.
In the spring of my senior year of high school, the Stoneman Douglas High school shooting occurred. This time, I was old enough to understand the systemic, psychological, and political forces that embodied the incident. I went to school in Tampa, Florida, and many of my classmates had family members or friends who lived in Parkland. Some even knew people who attended the high school. I remember hearing this in the hallways, and a few days later, having a school wide ceremony to honor those who had passed. During the ceremony, one of the victims, Nicholas Dworet, resonated with me. He was a swimmer in Parkland, committed to swim at the University of Indianapolis. He was like me. We had dedicated our lives to our sport, in hopes of achieving our dreams of swimming at the collegiate level. Except I got to live out my dream, and his was stripped from him.
This chart was taken from Everytown Research & Policy. The article was last updated January 25, 2021 and this data was collected from 2013-2019.
Since these shootings, we have seen the ongoing debate on how to prevent and combat future incidents, as these two cases were not rarities. “From 2013 to 2019, Everytown identified 549 incidents of gunfire on school grounds. Of these, 347 occurred on the grounds of an elementary, middle, or high school, 2 resulting in 129 deaths and 270 people wounded,” (Everytown). The guns used in these incidents more often than not came from family, friends, and people the shooter knew previously. Similarly, most active shooters displayed previous signs of violence and aggressive behavior.
We know that at the root of this problem is gun control. There are many solutions that have been thrown around, and there is one in particular I want to address. Gun rights advocates make the argument that school administrators should carry guns. In fact, Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida passed a bill back in 2019 allowing teachers to carry weapons. States such as Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota also allow teachers to carry guns under certain conditions. But, if the whole school is armed, what is to say that a student or someone else won’t get access to it. I previously mentioned that most active shooters at schools obtained their gun through someone else, not by purchasing it illegally. A gun present in the classroom would increase the chances of it being used. Likewise, what if the gun is mishandled by a student or administrator. Teachers may not even be comfortable with carrying a weapon, and families may be uncomfortable sending their children into settings where guns are present. “Roughly two-thirds of teachers opposed introducing guns into the classroom (Center for American Progress),” (the thread). Although teachers care about their children and want to protect them, they chose their career path to educate children, not act as security guards. Ultimately, arming teachers in schools would be more likely to increase both danger and discomfort, rather than safety and relief. Looking at the financial side of the argument, for teachers to be armed they would need the proper training and resources to do so. Wouldn’t these funds be better used towards preventative measures such as counseling, mental health programs, or more security guards?
I feel like recently this issue has been put on the back burner of political agendas. Arming teachers with the idea that school shootings will be reduced, because armed teachers can shoot the shooter, or deter the shooter from approaching school grounds in the first place, is not the answer. The cons outweigh the ‘pros.’ And the issue remains. I am not a policy maker, nor do I have all the solutions. But maybe a good place to start would be with being an active listener and observer. If someone is struggling, if someone is displaying signs of aggression, tell someone so that they can try to get them help. Make help available. That would be a better step in the right direction.
Gabby Delp is a senior at Davidson College majoring in Political Science and Communications. She is also a member of Davidson’s swim team.