Editorial: Arming teachers not the answer

There are a number of steps that can and should be taken to make schools safer from mass shootings. Arming teachers is not one of them.

President Donald Trump should be commended for arranging and hosting the White House listening session last week in the wake of the fatal school shooting on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla. Trump asked the meeting participants to offer suggestions to prevent future school shootings. He listened intently and indicated support for several of the suggestions, including some that required him to buck National Rifle Association positions. Smart, logical stances and solutions for which Trump indicated support included:

• Fixing the National Instant Background Check System to include more data from more agencies, more states and more information on mental health.

• Raising the legal age to purchase an assault rifle to 21.

• Banning bump stocks that modify guns to allow increased rapid fire.

• Enhancing security at schools, including metal detectors, security officers and more secure building construction.

These are pragmatic, common-sense solutions that polling shows a majority of Americans support.

But Trump also spent significant time on Wednesday and in the days following touting an idea that is more divisive among Americans: Arming teachers with concealed weapons and paying them bonuses to serve as both a deterrent and first response to school shooters.

Trump theorized that if a teacher who also was an adept marksman was armed when the shooter appeared on the Stoneman Douglas High School campus, “the teacher would have shot the hell out of him before anything would have happened.”

Trump indicated that he would support arming 10 to 40 percent of teachers with concealed weapons, especially those with prior military or law enforcement experience. The teachers would have to go through annual training and would be paid bonuses to carry the weapons.

He also would get rid of the gun-free zones used by many school districts, saying such zones make schools targets of criminals. “We have to harden our schools, not soften them up,” Trump said.

But is putting more guns on campuses really the best way to make schools safer? It would seem that asking teachers to, as a secondary responsibility to their primary role as educators, make a decision on when to pull out weapons and shoot would increase the probability of more gun violence on school campuses.

There is hope that Congress will act soon on several of the solutions the president supports, perhaps as early as this week on fixing background checks and banning bump stocks. That would be refreshingly welcome.

Trump clarified late last week that although he supports arming teachers, the decision to take such a step should be left to states and local school districts. Here’s hoping Kansas doesn’t take the arm-the-teachers approach seriously.