Lots can go wrong with armed teachers. And already has.
It seems that everyone already has a pretty good sense of what could go wrong Donald Trump’s “plan” to arm teachers. Having collected the thousands of stories that became the GunFAIL series, I know that most of those things already have happened. I’m able to recall off the top of my head the Utah elementary school teacher who injured herself in an accidental discharge while in the restroom, shattering the toilet in the process. And the professor at Idaho State who accidentally shot himself in the foot during his lecture. Or the Pennsylvania teacher who left her loaded weapon behind in the bathroom, where it was found by students.
Prefer armed guards or school resource officers, instead? They haven’t been doing much better. For instance, sometimes they leave their guns behind in the bathroom, too. Somehow their “special training” hasn’t convinced them, for instance, not to clean their weapons while on duty. And of course, who could forget the time the outsourced, private security guard hired by the University of Florida accidentally shot a student?
The truth is, of course, we have forgotten that, if we even heard about it in the first place. Which is highly unlikely, because we still treat gun accidents like local curiosities in this country, barely noticing even when toddlers routinely shoot themselves dead with loose guns found in mom’s purse, in bedside tables, or on top of kitchen counters that they “can’t reach.” Even the above-linked NBC story describing Trump’s proposal to arm teachers as “colossally stupid” cites the example of Utah’s trained teachers, with no mention of the fact that they’d actually already had a teacher accidentally shoot herself on the job.
So we know what can go wrong, because we’ve seen it go wrong. And a lot of smart people have even correctly guessed that arming teachers will create enormous liability issues for the schools, the school systems, the teachers, and everybody associated with administering it.
But there’s another aspect of the Utah teacher story that is probably more predictive than a collection of GunFAIL anecdotes. Even the most hardcore boosters of the proposal still feel compelled to sell it to doubters by pointing out that participating teachers will be specially trained, and required to adhere to strict safety protocols at all times. But I’m here to tell you that those safety measures aren’t worth much in practice.