Column: Trump is wrong, teachers don’t need guns

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Electric Park Ballroom, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in Waterloo, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

How low have the standards for sensible gun policy fallen for Congress and gun-enthusiasts? Donald Trump low. On the presidential campaign trail Saturday, Trump mistakenly insisted that Umpqua Community College, the site of America’s most recent mass shooting, was “a gun-free zone” and that if the teachers had guns, everybody would have been “a hell of a lot better off.”

Unfortunately, raucous potential presidential candidates like Trump are now commonly perpetuating the idea that a crime with a deadly weapon is best prevented by another deadly weapon. In an interview with USA Today on Tuesday, potential Republican candidate Ben Carson said gun control could lead to tyranny, and that he would instead be “much more comfortable” knowing a kindergarten teacher was carrying a gun.

Only in America would two leading candidates for the presidential nomination suggest that a teacher responsible for ABCs, vowel sounds and naptime should also be a gun-wearing bodyguard ready to deliver deadly force at any moment. Many politicians still aren’t ready to arm teachers with new textbooks and other classroom resources, so why the sudden push on guns?

Trump and Carson are dead wrong. Umpqua Community College is not a gun-free zone, and there was even a student on campus carrying a concealed weapon when the shooting began, according to MSNBC. When did the entire political dialogue on guns and public safety shift from limiting access to deadly weapons through regulation to only combatting rampant gun violence with more guns and violence?

Republican candidates like Trump and Carson, while touting their status as non-politicians, destructively play into the political ignorance about gun policy that perpetually stalls progress on reform. Arming teachers is not the simple solution to gun violence. The ignorance on the issues, whether unintentional or driven into politicians and Congress by the millions of dollars spent yearly by the National Rifle Association, is dangerous to say the least.

How would guns in schools and classrooms affect the way teachers interact with students and each other? How would schools be able to regulate the same training on use of force as given to police officers and first responders? What level of risk are we willing to accept when it comes to the inevitable loss, misplacement or forceful disarmament of a gun, or wrongful shooting? There are much better decisions to make than arming teachers.

In a poll conducted by the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, close to 90 percent of likely voters supported a law requiring background checks for all gun sales. Such actions take concrete baby steps toward stemming the rampant proliferation of guns in America. Despite the profits gun corporations and politicians would make if the public bought into their “every citizen should be armed” argument, enacting such proposals would wreak havoc on communities, let alone classrooms.

One study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that “states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher homicide victimization rates of men, women and children.” In another study for the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one third of boys aged 8 to 12 years old pulled the trigger of a handgun after finding it. Last but not least, another study from an international journal on injury prevention found that carried guns are “used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense.”

The jury is in and the studies are clear. Guns really are dangerous, and buying and keeping more around instead of working toward sensible legislation to protect communities simply isn’t the answer. Closing loopholes in existing laws, requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazine – these are just a few common sense things Congress can do to protect schools and communities. America’s founding documents weren’t meant to pave the way for armed teacher militias in classrooms, and average citizens shouldn’t have to arm themselves in constant fear of attack.

Congressional research on gun control legislation indicated that American civilians collectively own over 310 million guns, while law enforcement and the military combined control only 4 million.  We don’t need any more “good guys with guns” or to arm teachers in their classrooms, but to finally take steps toward more sensible gun reform.


Bennett Cognato is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at bennett.cognato@uconn.edu.