US teachers have the perfect response to Trump wanting to give educators guns
When you ask teachers why they do what they do, more often than not, they come back with a very similar answer. They speak of their love of imparting knowledge, of knowing that they've made a difference in a child's life, of being there for that magic lightbulb moment where it all clicks and the student gets it. One thing that no teacher has ever said is: "I became a teacher so that I can protect children from armed shooters."
But if President Donald Trump has anything to do with it, this is exactly what will happen. In the days after the devastating massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died, the 45th POTUS horrified thousands of educators across the United States when he proposed that teachers be trained and armed with guns in order to keep schools safe from mass shootings.
Suggesting that it would be "a great deterrent to killers," Trump wrote on Twitter: "History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"
He continued: "If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!"
Despite later arguing that the story was "fake news", and that he would only consider handing out guns to the 20 per cent of teachers out there who were "gun adept", "with military or special training experience", the damage was done and teachers everywhere were left stunned and outraged by the suggestion. This included teachers Olivia Bertels and Brittany Wheaton, who came up the perfect response to Trump's proposal when they created the hashtag "#ArmMeWith" to express their anger on Instagram.
The hashtag was thought up to make it clear that teachers working in schools needed to be armed with many things - but weapons are not one of them. Writing on Instagram, Bertels, who teaches middle school English in Kansas, kicked off the social media movement by posting: #ArmMeWith: School supplies. Literally, I should not be single-handedly keeping Target in business." Her partner Wheaton, who describes herself as "The SuperHERO teacher" on her Instagram profile, followed suit by writing: "#ArmMeWith: The resources and funding needed to help students experiencing mental health issues."
Soon enough, teachers all over social media were using the hashtag to express their opposition to individuals hired to educate children being given guns, instead demanding school books, trained counsellors and nurses, smaller class sizes, fewer tests and more time to nurture students, among other things.
Bertels, who knew someone close to the Parkland shooting, told USA TODAY that she and Wheaton started #ArmMeWith to combat the "absurd notion being espoused by largely NRA-funded politicians" that arming teachers will keep schools safe, labelling the US government as "tone deaf".
"The vast majority of school personnel are uninterested in carrying a weapon into a building full of hundreds or thousands of children each day," she said. "Those desires are not being reflected in the tone-deaf suggestions being made by lawmakers as a solution to America's gun problem."
Despite millions remaining outraged by President Trump's proposal, the White House indicated on Thursday that it was possible the federal government could come up with the money to fund up to one million teachers being trained and armed with guns across the United States.
At a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early on Thursday afternoon, Trump himself came up with the idea of paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers. The president recommended that "10, 20, 40%" of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel, stating "I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected."
When the White House was later challenged on the fact that giving 40 per cent of America's teachers a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1 billion being distributed, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, responded by asking: “Do you really think that’s too much to pay for school safety?” He added that Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.
Furthermore, Shah claimed that Trump is considering supporting raising the minimum age for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. This is a statement likely to enrage millions of gun control advocates across America, including the surviving students of the parkland massacre, who have begun a fierce campaign for change.
At the end of the day, with a school shooting happening on average every 60 hours in the United States, people need to group together and come up with a solution - and fast, before more innocent children and adults lose their lives. Is arming teachers with weapons the answer? While it's true that no one has a crystal ball that they can look into to predict the future, I'm with the teachers of the #ArmMeWith movement. My gut feeling is a strong "no".