Arming teachers: Safe or insufferable?

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  • DUANE RASMUSSEN/Courtesy photo Sarah Rasmussen, 25, uses an AR-15 at a private shooting range in Kootenai County.

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  • DUANE RASMUSSEN/Courtesy photo Sarah Rasmussen, 25, uses an AR-15 at a private shooting range in Kootenai County.

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The words sound truly awful, even creepy, when you actually mouth the sentence.

“The solution to gun tragedies in our schools is more guns.”

And yet …

Even as survivors and victims’ families from the Florida tragedy are still weeping and demanding an end to teenage carnage, President Trump said seriously on Wednesday that perhaps an answer might be “hardening” schools as targets.

Trump made the point that school shooters are “cowards” who wouldn’t be so bold if “there were bullets coming back at them.”

Several members of the Parkland delegation at the White House conference raised their hands in agreement. So did some parents from the Sandy Hook massacre back in 2012.

So let’s put it out on the table: Would arming and training some teachers and school staff members deter would-be mass killers?

Idaho already boasts a school that’s armed to the teeth, a rural K-12 building down in Garden Valley — in the proverbial middle of nowhere.

The city and district decided to handle any threat themselves, concealing rifles in several well-hidden “safes” throughout the school, and any bad actors wouldn’t know exactly who would respond with lethal force.

What about North Idaho?

The question came up this week, in part because of the Florida shooting, but also because a lot of residents in this part of the country believe in defending themselves — with or without official police sanction.

Our discussion started when Duane Rasmussen, a conservative gun owner (but hardly some wild-eyed Butch Cassidy), sent us a photo of his daughter, Sarah, training with an AR-15.

BY THE WAY, my always-packing friend Don Bradway insists that the media should use proper terminology if we’re going to discuss this issue.

“These are not assault weapons,” Don said, “no matter how many times the national press wants to say it. They are semi-automatic rifles.”

Rasmussen’s text repeated an old line: “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.”

Both he and Bradway would like to see some local teachers and staff armed as the ultimate deterrent.

“Some teachers won’t want weapons,” Bradway said, “but that’s OK, because if you’re going to have the responsibility of being armed, you have to be willing to kill someone in a situation of mortal danger.”

A few years ago, I probably would have dismissed the idea of arming teachers as a Die Hard-style fantasy.

But after these routine mass killings?

Maybe not.

NATURALLY, there is a strong argument on the other side of this issue.

Paula Neils, the Kootenai County Democratic chair, admitted she was appalled by the suggestion of armed teachers.

“I think our children would be even less comfortable if you turn schools into militarized camps,” she said. “You can’t make a school into a prison and call that safety.”

Neils has studied a lot about this incredible string of shootings, and notes that most of the time, when a young person is the one opening fire, he’s a loner who has been pushed aside in school.

Neils pointed to studies involving teachers who rotate groups of students so no one is ever excluded, and suggested that part of the answer might be helping the kids who are headed toward danger.

Rasmussen doesn’t argue that point, but said: “What happens when the kids who don’t respond to help start shooting? We have to defend our children.”

The puzzle, I think, is that everyone here is partially correct.

But I do suspect that a serious debate about arming teachers may be upon us soon.

What a hell of a world.


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.


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