My Thoughts on Guns as a Teacher

Ok, ex-teacher, but still, the experience counts in this.

I was a teacher at a school where 95% of the students were on free or reduced lunch. My students were usually very poor and often living with 3 or 4 other families in a single family home. Maybe they didn’t have access to running water or have an oven big enough to hold donated turkeys (this actually was an issue at a neighboring high school: people donated turkeys so their students could celebrate Thanksgiving, but so many people returned them because they had nowhere to cook them that they’ve not done a donation like that since). This school was not an anomaly in this city, of the six high schools there, at least four were full of students like this, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if all six were.  I’m telling you this for a reason, promise.

Gangs and taggers were issues, sure, but not usually for ME. They were much more of an issue for my students and I hated the time change when it started getting dark at four because my students had to walk home in the dark (no one drove, very few families could afford to have a car for their kid to drive). Schools are actually considered no fight zones (for the most part) for kids in gangs: they don’t want to attract attention or get identified as a gang member. So, schools are pretty neutral when it comes to gang members and most of the students I had that I knew were probably gang members were some of my most polite and well-behaved kids. There was one exception to this rule, but all he gave me was attitude. Oh, man, so much attitude.

Now, guns were PROBABLY on campus. I went to a seminar on taggers once where they showed us a picture of the typical tagger’s backpack: all that was in it was a can of spray paint and a gun. That was pretty freaky, I won’t lie. However, I never felt in any danger. The kids don’t WANT to be caught after all, so most of their illicit and illegal activities happened off campus. In fact, looking at the record of school shootings, I was probably safer working there than at a school in a more affluent area.

That being said, it was something I was ALWAYS aware of. I taught freshman, 14-15 year old kids, some of whom had been in school since kindergarten but had a second grade reading level (the effect of poverty on education is a whole other blog post). They were GREAT kids and I loved teaching them. And I would, totally and absolutely, have stood in front of an active shooter in order to save their lives.

It’s crazy to me that I even had to think of doing that, but I did. We practiced lock down drills and I obediently locked the door and we sat in silence until the all clear came over the PA system. The truth was though, I was in a portable classroom with walls like cardboard and sometimes with 40 students in it. There was no where for them to hide, no closet big enough for 40 teenagers, no walls thick enough to stop bullets. I would worry, what if it DID happen? What would I do? I would always, in my plannings, step in front of a gun for them because I knew that if a gunman managed to gain entry into my room, I was the last line of defense.

The last line of defense. Me. An English teacher. Not a cop or fireman. A teacher. This shouldn’t be part of my job description. No, I don’t want to be armed and have a gun in my desk in case of an emergency. I don’t want to train to take down a person SHOOTING AT PEOPLE. I want to teach literature and grammar and be a teacher. And yet, people are, instead of passing laws making it harder for certain people to buy certain guns, advocating for arming teachers. ARMING TEACHERS. That’s….that’s insanity. That is not solving anything. That is adding to the problem and creating even more of a gun culture in a country whose gun culture is out of control.

And yet…if I were still there teaching in that classroom and knew that I was the ONLY thing between my students and a gunman,  I’d probably want a weapon. Because my job is to protect those students, those are MY KIDS, and I would kill someone before letting them get hurt just as I would rather die than they get hurt. Teachers shouldn’t have to make that choice. It’s not their job. Except in the United States, it is.

My Views on Guns as a (female) Human

It’s gotten to the point where mass shootings are so common that BBC introduced the story about the shooting in San Bernardino as “Another day in America.” Yep, just another day, another shooting. It’s the norm now. Let me repeat that: IT’S THE NORM NOW. If that doesn’t shock you, it should. So, I’m going to write some thoughts on guns from several perspectives, probably 3. This first piece is about guns from the perspective of a human being, American, and woman. Just a general gist of how I feel about guns.

First, it is not a god given right that all Americans own guns. It’s just not and that is NOT what the Second Amendment is about. The Second Amendment is about arming a militia, not that every joe schmoe gets a gun. In fact, this interpretation of the Second Amendment is largely the fault of the NRA, as seen in this article. So, American’s need to stop thinking that the government is going to attack all of its’ citizens and hold them hostage because they want to make stricter gun laws.

Second, no one is trying to take your guns away. No one is saying no one should own guns. All that’s trying to be done is making it harder for potential murderers to buy one and to prohibit the sale of semi-automatic guns THAT NO ONE SHOULD OWN ANYWAY. Seriously, who needs to own guns that are used by military/police TO KILL PEOPLE? That’s what those types of guns are for. They are not rifles. They are not hunting guns. They are guns designed to kill people. In some states, it’s harder to buy cigarettes than it is to buy a gun and there is something very very wrong with that.

Third, we are suffering from an internal arms race. At least, that’s what it feels like. The idea that we arm ourselves to protect ourselves SOUNDS like an arms race to me. And, call me crazy, but I don’t want to HAVE to own a gun just to feel safe walking to my car. I should be able to trust that someone with a grudge, or a mental issue, or WHATEVER cannot buy a super powerful semi-automatic gun and ambush people just trying to buy toilet paper. The governments’ JOB, it’s number one job, is to keep it’s people safe. When our government begins telling us to arm ourselves to save ourselves, it’s telling us that it cannot keep us safe. It’s UNWILLING TO KEEP US SAFE. This is a huge gigantic enormous fucking problem. My options are now: 1. don’t own a gun like a sucker (or so says some people), 2. Own a pistol/handgun that is legal to buy, 3. Own a semi-automatic gun that can take out a bunch of people at once because that is what the bad guys are buying and I need to save myself.

Fourth, the NRA is running our government. I’m not joking here. They are controlling the votes of SO MANY senators and representatives it’s impossible to get any change to gun laws. Impossible. Every single person who voted no to new gun laws had been paid in some fashion by the NRA, whether through donations or “expenditures.” Some received upwards of $3 million other’s received as little as $3000. @igorvolsky tweeted each senator who had received something from the NRA and let us know if they voted for or against change. Shocking news: it was always against. The NRA is PAYING our government to think and prey for victims and NOT PROTECT THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. In addition to that, there has been no studies done on gun violence since the CDC was basically attacked by the NRA for DOING THEIR JOB and studying gun violence. So, not only is change being prevented, we have very little understanding into how to PREVENT them because no one is studying them. Way to go NRA. You are SO COOL.

Fifth, feminism is being attacked and it’s creating issues with masculinity. That’s right, equal rights and treatment for the sexes CAN HELP REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE. Everyone benefits from it. This article cites several studies that have proven that masculinity is directly tied to violence, that men feeling inadequately masculine are more likely to use violence to prove their manhood. And this is an issue because we are polarizing masculinity and femininity.  Feminism is good for everyone.

Ok, thus ends part one of my thoughts on guns. Return later for my thoughts on guns as an ex-teacher.