There’s a common argument from the National Rifle Association in the wake of mass shootings that more guns, not fewer, is the answer. This week, a state representative in Alabama has taken that notion and run with it, introducing legislation that would permit educators to undergo firearm training in order to arm themselves in the classroom.
After unveiling the bill in Guntersville, Ala., Tuesday morning, Republican state Rep. Will Ainsworth said he plans to head to Montgomery to present the legislation there. “Our kids do not need to be sitting ducks,” Ainsworth — who is running for lieutenant governor — told a room full of teachers, school staff, and police. “Our teachers do not need to be defending themselves with a No. 2 pencil.”
— Mike Cason (@MikeCasonAL) February 20, 2018
Ainsworth’s thinking, and the NRA’s argument, centers on the notion that if another person had been armed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, he or she could have intervened early on and stopped the shooter from killing 17 people in cold blood.
The problem is, there’s little to no evidence to support this theory — and a wealth of evidence suggesting the opposite: that the more guns that are present in either a home or city increase the likelihood of fatalities. The proof comes in the form of more than two dozen studies, in which researchers have outlined troubling statistics about the dangers of increasing gun ownership.
In a study out of Philadelphia, researchers found individuals with guns are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than unarmed citizens, and 4.2 times more likely to be killed by gunfire. In another study from Boston’s Children Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers concluded that states with the highest gun ownership had 6.8 times the rate of firearm assaults and 2.8 times the rate of firearm homicides than those with the lowest rates of gun ownership.
Gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety has been pushing back on the issue of arming teachers for years. “These bills are sold as a way to keep children safe, but in reality, they do just the opposite, putting children at risk of unintentional shootings and escalating conflict without decreasing the risk of an active shooter,” a statement from Everytown reads. “Statehouses should listen to school safety experts and local communities, rather than letting the gun lobby put children’s lives at risk.”
Anne Leader, a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of the nonprofit Moms Demand Action, is vehemently opposed to the legislation. Leader became interested in gun violence prevention during her sophomore year of high school, when her best friend killed herself using an unsecured gun in her home.
A former educator herself, Leader can’t imagine juggling the added responsibility of protecting students with — and from — a gun. “We know that when more guns are around, the likelihood of unintentional shooting goes up,” Leader tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Low-grade incidents could escalate to a shooting; things could get ugly. The psychological toll that it would take on teachers by putting this responsibility on them would be too much.”
Leader supports gun ownership, as long as owners have passed criminal background checks. She’s focused on keeping guns secured in homes — and keeping the responsibility of protecting students in the hands of police. “In the stress of an active shooting situation, is a faculty member going to be able to stop it?” Leader asks. “We can’t expect teachers who are already overloaded to add live firearm training on a regular basis. Teachers feel this is something law enforcement should be in charge of — and we agree with that.”
Ainsworth’s bill in Alabama, which he says was a direct reaction to the Parkland shooting, is still in the early stages. But with multiple state representatives appearing alongside him at the press conference Tuesday, it’s solidly entering the state’s discourse. In Alabama, where the rate of gun deaths is the second highest in the nation, it’s not hard to imagine this bill moving forward.
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