Straight Talk Advice

School Shootings: Should Teachers Carry Guns?

Jul 01, 2014

Father Gets the ‘Straight Talk’ on School Shootings

Dear Straight Talk: To combat school shootings, our school district is considering arming teachers who undergo extensive training. All this is making my daughter (age 17) even more nervous about school shootings — while my son, 15, asked if he could take gun training. I really don't know how to respond to them, nor the best overall direction. Some teachers I had in high school I wouldn't want anywhere near a gun. —John in Pennsylvania

Moriah 17, Rutland, Vt. Ask me a question

When adults fight violence with more violence it spells “no solution”. That's what's frightening. Why are we not connecting with mentally-unstable people and learning their triggers? Why aren't we fostering human connections to prevent people from feeling unconnected? Let's make life an improvement project not a scary video game.

Taylor 17, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

I'm very much FOR arming teachers. I'm also for gun control. When people lash out at unprotected CHILDREN, protection is needed. But it shouldn't be so easy for mentally-unstable people to get guns. To those who keep blocking sane gun control, try being a schoolkid.

Matt 19, Mission Viejo, Calif. Ask me a question

School shootings result from mental illness. Sure, guns provide a way to kill, but a knife or car can kill, too. I support trained teachers carrying arms. Waiting for police means more deaths. However, applicants must be extensively evaluated — way beyond a background check. Regarding your son's interest in gun safety, look into it. Knowing how to operate a gun is essential for safety (such as unloading a dropped gun to prevent it from firing). Guns are around, legally and illegally, and law-abiding citizens should know how to operate them.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

To those who think Sandy Hook was a hoax, a government conspiracy that you can joke about on FB, please wake up! I lost a friend in a school shooting. To those who know how real this is, you know kids suffer when engulfed in hysteria — the media's already disgusting enough. If we throw guns into kids' hands at 15, who are we to scoff at child soldiers fighting for blood diamonds in Africa? Schools need sensible, non-hyped security procedures. At my high school, an intimidating history teacher carried a concealed firearm. His sons were police and we trusted him. He only drew it once during my four years, when a student began throwing big computer monitors at a teacher after being caught on porn.

Bronwyn 15, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

How will a teacher know when to actually shoot someone? I think this will cause more harm than good. I guarantee if teachers have guns, students will become more interested in them — and students are the typical shooters. Real prevention happens when people care for each other enough that nobody becomes desperate and insane.

Brie 23, San Francisco Ask me a question

It's scary. In high school we had “shelter-in-place” drills where you cowered under your desk behind your backpack and textbooks. I would've felt safer knowing some teachers were trained and armed — however, students must NOT know who carries. Not only would there be fewer casualties, many perpetrators might decide against this kind of action in the first place. Mostly we need to raise kids differently. Too many kids today are unattached to humans. Attachment to violent games is worst, but I was nanny to super-awkward kids who couldn't pry themselves from so-called “harmless” electronics long enough to say three words. We also need lifestyle solutions instead of overprescribing psychotropic drugs. Almost all shooters are on these drugs, which numb emotions and can induce suicidal thoughts.

Dear John: I hope we've been helpful. I, too, think children deserve sane, trained protection so they're not “sitting ducks” to mentally-ill juvenile males. That said, without concurrently eliminating causes of mental illness, arming teachers (or letting kids take weapon training for this purpose, versus hunting) is a bad video game.

Schools are targets because many so kids are harmed emotionally there. Every campus needs proven programs like Safe School Ambassadors (see, which has fostered, in over 1000 schools, true inclusion and happiness of kids normally bullied or excluded. We also must restore childhood. Early-childhood stress and lack of human attachment both cause measurable malformation of the young brain — setting up huge future problems. Band-Aids are fine, but if we only apply Band-Aids, i.e., gun control, arming teachers, monitoring the mentally ill, we are tragically ignoring the real wound.

Editor's Note: We have written extensively about the Safe Schools Ambassador program, at one point devoting an entire column to it, hosting actual student "ambassadors" from a variety of schools who spoke with Straight Talk. It's the best anti-bullying program I know of. And really, it's more than that, because it doesn't just stop bullying, it promotes true peace. The program is genius in that it works by enlightening and training, say out of a school of 800, the 40 most popular kids from every clique on campus. You get these kids awakened and everyone follows because they're the social leaders. The Safe Schools Ambassador program basically makes it cool to be a great person. Check out the changes in the schools as told by the student ambassadors themselves in our column of APR 27, 2011. If you are a student or parent, talk to your school about this program (visit I know they have a lot of systems in place to help schools acquire funding.

It was an honor to get today's question on school shootings (thank you John) and be able to share the thoughts of the panelists. What I really like is that not only were all the important points shared about the need for armed protection, better gun laws, and learning what triggers the mentally ill, but these young people GET that we need to go deeper and learn how to forge human connections. That if we don't do this at the same time, things will just get worse. They go to school on these campuses and see the kids who are isolated and excluded and know this is the root of the problem.

Another root is the destruction of early childhood. I really appreciated Brie's note of this. Mental illness, even without bullying, is at an all-time high. You just can't take a baby, toddler, or young child and give him/her total inconsistency in schedule, provide no screening of the adult stresses of the world, constantly let him/her trance-out in front of electronic devices because you are too busy (or stressed yourself) to enforce otherwise, or not take the considerable time needed to attune warmly to who this little person is, and expect that little person to forge a deep attachment to other humans. In fact, they don't. And we now know that this kind of early childhood experience results in a radical stunting of the natural opiate/dopamine part of the brain that regulates desire, reward, attachment, and affect regulation, resulting in huge problems that often don't express themselves until adolescence or young adulthood. (A person CAN rebuild these neurological circuits, but it's a difficult, earned journey).

There are many reading sources on this, and the one I'm liking best so far is Jon Daily's book "Adolescent and Young Adult Addiction." He focuses on addiction, because when these neurological systems are compromised, that's a natural result. If you want to read more immediately, check out my Editor's Note in the column of JAN 26, 2011, when I first reported on this from another source.

Please folks, we all play a part, so let's slow down and restore childhood, let's make our schools places where children are educated, not harmed — basically, let's treat the mental illness under the Band-Aid. If we don't, things will just get worse. —Lauren

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  1. By Maddie, age 15, from Cotati, CA on 07/01/2014

    With how easy it is for people to access guns, I feel like having teachers and students learning to use them won’t help the problem at all, but will just make it worse. I am pretty sure most school shootings were done by students and so to have students learning to use guns, I think will just increase them. I mean school shootings rarely happen from an outside source, they more often are inside jobs.

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  2. By Linda, age 16, from Redding, CA on 07/02/2014

    Guns scare me, and I think arming the teachers and having guns in the schools would make things less safe, not more safe.  I also believe that the gun control laws need to be much more strict, as all those school shootings might not have happened if it wasn’t so easy to get hold of a gun.  Matt says that you can also kill with a knife or a car.  While that may be true, I don’t think we would have had the mass killings at schools if they did not have guns.

    I feel strongly about gun control because my stepfather has a gun, and he is exactly the type of person who should NOT have one.  He supposedly has it for our “protection.”  However, he’s a heavy drinker and has a violent temper when he’s drunk, which he is just about every night.  He’s never actually threatened us with his gun.  However, it still scares my sister, me and our mom to death, and I think a loaded gun, his drinking, and his violent temper are a recipe for disaster.  My sister and I stay in our room when he’s drunk since he’s so terrible to be around, but we don’t have a lock on our door and we never know when he’s going to barge in and yell at us.  For the same reason, we can’t even get undressed without being nervous and have to do it as fast as we can and can’t even be in our underwear in our own room.  Our mom can’t escape him at all and he directs most of his anger at her when he’s drunk so we really worry for her, but she’s afraid to leave him.


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  3. By Lennon, age 27, from Los Angeles, CA on 07/02/2014

    Treat every person you interact with at your school genuinely. Believe every single person capable of beauty, of love, of kindness, but do not judge them for not being so. It’s hard.

    Violence at schools tends to be committed by those who’ve been marginalized, so if you can strive to include people in your groups and conversations, you’ll lower the chances of anyone flying off the handle in spectacular fashion. But it has to be genuine. Everyone has been marginalized at some point, so we all know how much it sucks.

    Longer answer:

    In my opinion, all this crap is blown out of proportion. Yes, I think media is partly to blame – blaze of glory and all that. There was a shooter in Canada recently, and some Canadian press decided not to publish his photo. Can’t find the link now, but read about it in early June.

    Ultimately, however, we’re to blame. We watch, read, listen to that crap instead of turning it off. Anyway.

    I fully support basic gun safety in school. I have grown friends who don’t understand a damn thing about guns. That, in my opinion, puts them in greater danger should they be unfortunate enough to be in a situation involving a shooter. They often have no clue about how many bullets or shells different guns hold, how easy/difficult it is to reload them, general ballistics of the ammunition being fired, rate of fire, which guns generally fire which types of ammunition, or even how to roughly estimate calibre by sound. Understanding, for instance, that the average shotgun takes much longer to reload than a pistol and (some) rifles, and that its effective range is (relatively) small in distance, could save your life. A solid wood door will most likely stop a .22 bullet; heck, I bet a thick book would. Rifle? Depending on what type of action it has – break, bolt, semi-auto, pump, lever – determines how quickly they can shoot and/or reload. Semi-auto is fastest, then lever, pump and/or bolt, break.

    Anyway, I can’t believe people are more scared of certain things (letting their children play unsupervised, school shootings, etc.) now than they were in the past. This despite that violence and kidnappings are on the decline. A vast number of kidnapping these days are perpetrated by family members, not strangers. We as a society have come to the conclusion that children cannot and should not be trusted with even some of the simplest tasks. I rewatched Hook a couple months back after reading “The Overprotected Kid” in The Atlantic, and had what I consider to be a rather profound thought: The difference between Peter Pan and Hook perfectly illustrates the changing perception of children. In Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, naught but children, survive on their own on a rather perilous island, fighting full-grown pirates. They hold their own, relying on their collective imaginative genius. First published in 1911, the story shows a society understanding of the tenacity, curiosity, and perseverance of children (even valuing them), capable of trusting them with responsibilities. Indeed, the adults are treated more as bumbling dolts than wise role models. Fast forward to1991, the release date of Hook. In this supposed sequel to Peter Pan, Peter is a grown man who has lost his ability to imagine, to find joy in what’s around him. He returns to his childhood home, and his children are kidnapped by Captain Hook. Peter has to go back and rediscover is imagination and finally defeat Hook. It sound harmless enough (I don’t think anyone would say losing your sense of wonder and imagination is a good thing), but it reflects a dramatic change in how society views children. Peter’s children are portrayed as helpless, despite that they’re near the same age Peter was when he fought Hook one-on-one. The Lost Boys have been largely subdued by the pirates, and only through Peter’s return (as an adult) are they finally able to triumph for good. Clearly, the views of society had shifted away from believing children as capable as we did in the early 18th century, while uplifting the adult.

    So, that’s a long way of saying I think we’re too protective of children. This probably stems from a warped perspective of death, but that’s (also) another subject.

    I don’t think teachers should be given guns. They’d have to go through intensive training, else they’d be more of a hurtful than helpful, and I think it would also change the way teachers see troubled children: as potential threats instead of someone in need of help. That change in perspective could be hurtful to students, and prompt teachers to possibly alert authorities of potential danger instead of the parents.

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  4. By "John", from on 12/11/2014

    Dear Straight Talk,
    Thank you to one and all at your organization for responding to my question about “Guns in Schools”.  My son read every word you wrote and even took a printout to school and began discussions with other kids and some of his teachers. The effect on him was profound; it motivated him to get involved in finding real solutions to all of our problems! Please wish everyone who reads your website a very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful Holiday. I read your group’s thoughts and ideas every week. And know this: caring people help make this world much better!
    Thank You Again! John in PA

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  5. By Helen, age 28, from USA on 07/18/2018

    You kid should not have a gun :( Although it’s hard but I hope the security of the school will have better methods, not just gun.
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