Sean Davis

Arming Our Teachers with Guns Is Not the Answer

(March for Our Lives, March 24, 2018, Washington DC - photo by Avery Jensen)

It has been proposed that arming our teachers in the classroom is the answer to the mass shooting problem pervasive in America, Sean Davis examines all the reasons why this will not work.


I’m the person you’re looking for. I’m a teacher. I’m also a combat veteran. I spent over twelve years in the military, nine in the infantry, three as a military police desk sergeant who did law enforcement, and I learned how to shoot just about every weapon there is to shoot. Pistols, rifles, machine guns, even an automatic, belt-fed, grenade launcher, but my specialty, the one that I can take apart blindfolded and put back together and fire is the military equivalent of the AR 15. When I shot expert, the time I was awarded the expert infantry badge, we called it the M-16 A1. When I carried it in Haiti during their revolution, we called it the M-16 A2. When I was deployed to Iraq, we called it the M-4. In fact, I carried an M-4 on American soil right after Hurricane Katrina. I carried it in a revolution, a war, during rescue operations during the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history … and now you want me to carry it into the classroom?

Okay, but maybe let’s think about this. In a famous study by Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall on soldiers during WWII, he wrote that, on average, only three men out of ten fire their rifles in combat. This general, the top rank in the military, was assigned as a military analyst by the U.S. Army in both the Pacific and Europe. The two places with the most combat in our largest war in history. He said our fighting men come “from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable… The fear of aggression has been expressed to him so strongly and absorbed by him so deeply and pervadingly — practically with his mother’s milk — that it is part of the normal man’s emotional make-up. This is his great handicap when he enters combat. It stays his trigger finger even though he is hardly conscious that it is a restraint upon him.”

That was WWII with the greatest generation. I can say from personal experience that it isn’t easy to steel yourself to take a person’s life. Some of the most braggadocious soldiers freeze up when the bullets start flying. I’ve seen this with people from the regular army whose job it is, day in and day out, is to train for war. What will happen with a teacher who doesn’t train regularly for this situation?

So, let’s say you want to train our teachers, or just 20% of them. As a teacher, if I’m teaching twelve credits a semester, that’s a 50- to 60-hours-a-week job. Should I hit the gun range on the weekend? Should we do active shooter drills once a week? How much of a raise are we talking and where are you going to get the money?

This administration cut the budget for the Department of Education by 3.6 billion dollars this year. My department admin may have to stop providing pens and dry erase markers. I can’t get basic classroom supplies, who is going to issue me my ammunition? Or my gun for that matter?


I carried a gun in a revolution, a war, during rescue operations during the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history … and now you want me to carry it into the classroom?


And you must understand that just because I’m a good guy with a gun doesn’t mean I won’t kill innocent people as well. Look at the New York Police Department. They train all the time for this type of stuff and according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study they found the average hit rate during a fire fight was around 18%. When suspects didn’t return fire (as I’m sure a school shooter would), their hit rate only went up to 30%. If a highly trained police officer from the largest city in our country fires ten bullets and only hits three times, how accurate do you expect our teachers to be? Where do those other seven bullets go?

We won’t talk about investigating the crime scene after a shooting and trying to figure out whose bullets killed who, but we should at least think about how a first responder is going to know 1) who is a teacher and 2) who is the shooter. As a person who has been in a fire fight, I will tell you things get very confusing very fast. Not even the witnesses will know what is going on. You have one student seeing a teacher actively shooting his or her gun, even in defense, that teacher becomes an active shooter.

Let’s say you win me over on all of this. I agree to be one of your school’s teachers/sentries, protector of our innocent and defender from the mad shooter, all while teaching how to use commas and semicolons. I have one last question to ask: Who are you asking me to kill? Think about that. You are asking me to kill mentally ill children. Maybe the kid is a monster and shooting them will save lives, but I left the military consciously, purposely, because of the killings I lived through will negatively affect me for the rest of my life and, at the time, I was killing terrorists who didn’t look like me or speak my language. There is a reason I left this life behind. You think we have a high percentage of PTSD now?

I agree, we must do something. If you have a child going to school in this country, you are participating in a lottery you don’t want to win. I’d do anything to keep my children safe, and if that includes putting a gun back in my hand, I’ll do it, but before that happens let’s look at increasing funding to help our mentally ill. Let’s actually pass some stricter gun laws to make it harder for children and mentally ill people to buy guns. Let’s hold our politicians accountable. I loved seeing Marco Rubio squirm when asked if he will commit to not taking any more NRA money. I’ve seen more movement on this than ever before, let’s keep it going. But arming our teachers with gun handling experience, that’s not the answer. I’m telling you this as the person you’re looking for.


Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland, Oregon. His latest stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various magazines and media sources such as HUMAN the Movie, the international fashion magazine Flaunt, Forest Avenue's forthcoming anthology City of Weird, and much more.

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