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Arming Educators: Trump, Gun Violence and Schools

It had been in the works. Instead of engaging in the traditional revulsion associated with a mass shooting, or even digesting the grief of outraged students and grieving parents, US President Donald Trump’s solution to guns violence was elementary. To target the perpetrator, it was necessary to arm instructors, mount the barricades, and raise the stakes.

His address of February 15 was hackneyed but drew the lines of barriers and defence. It was a description of a dysfunctional environment, one further bloodied in the wake of the shootings in Parkland, Florida. “No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning.”

A week later, he had met some of the survivors of the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, adopting the familiar pose as radical agent of change, a person who would do things differently from his impotent or indifferent predecessors. At the very least, he would do something.

“I listened to their heartbreaking stories. I asked them for their ideas, and pledged to them that we will take action, unlike, for many years, where people in my position did not take action. They didn’t take proper action. They took no action at all. We’re going to take action.”

In fact, he claimed confidently, work was already being done by his administration to target guns – and criminals. Little distinction here is made between the armed gangs he boastfully targets, or the ill individual who prefers to resort to using weapons in a fit of disturbance. “So we’re working on getting violent offenders off the streets and guns out of the hands of the dangerous criminals.” He also promised firmer background checks, the removal of such incidents of the problem as bump stocks.

One of the more telling aspects of Trump’s latest approach to guns is his insistence on how best to deal with the “sick guy” behind the trigger. Nikolas Cruz had “so many sides” befitting a mental patient. But alas, communities in the United States had taken a stance over the years against the mental institution, citing costs and in some cases the liberty of the patient, as reasons for mass closures.

“So, we’re going to be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again.  In some cases, reopening. I can tell you, in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them.”

Not that Trump is particularly enthused by a model of care and compassion. The sick of the United States are not to be treated in tender fashion but subjected to something amounting to pseudo-incarceration. “You have these people living on the streets. And I can say that, in many cases throughout the country, they’re very dangerous. They shouldn’t be there.”

And what of the school children themselves? They would be protected by their guardians and teachers at school, not by discouraging the use of weaponry but encouraging competent armed responses. Arm, for instance, up to 20 percent of teachers. Security guards, alone, were inadequate. They did not, like deputy Scot Peterson of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, “know” or “love the children”.

This arming strategy would also be selective. On Friday, the President suggested that not all pedagogues would be anointed with the task, merely those “that have great ability with weaponry, with guns, those are the only people I’m talking about. They’ll protect the students.” An environment of true, trigger conscious mayhem.

In this regard, Trump’s proposal is not drawn from a crazed air. Sponsorship programs in various US states exist encouraging gun loading and training for administrators and teachers. The phenomenon of the armed educator has taken root in very troubled soil.  FasterColorado does just that in Colorado, a confession that guns are less to be controlled than embraced with care.

Laura Carno, co-founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, is one figure Trump speaks to.  It was Carno who, in a brainwave of inspiration, brought the Ohio-based Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency (FASTER) program to Colorado. The language of the program is not that of schooling but urban warfare.

In the fantastically grim voice of security public relations, “FASTER training enables teachers, administrators and other school employees to stop school violence quickly and administer medical aid immediately.”

Carno’s sociological vision is primitively fatalistic. The enemy can be defeated – with force. “We need to talk about fortifying doors. We need to talk about a lot of things, but we also need to talk about arming staff, because everything can be defeated.”

For Trump, a crude deterrence theory passes muster. The person behind the gun is a coward who, on knowing that there are no gun free zones, will resist temptation. Such apocalyptic scenarios remain the stuff of gun policy in US debates, and suggesting a crude irony at work: to keep people safe, they must be reassured they are in gun zones.

With such a stance, the right to bear arms remains unabridged and unchallenged. What matters is the mentality behind using them. Given that such individuals are often broken on inflicting carnage, rational appraisals of deterrence seem weak. What Trump’s America looks like after the Florida school shootings is a more militant, and militarised space rife with suspicion and pathological insecurity.


9 comments

  1. olddavey

    The man’s a halfwit.
    Unfortunately the Republicans are so desperate to cling on to power Hannibal Lecter would even be acceptable as POTUS if they thought he could keep them in the majority.
    We’re lucky we’ve only got Captain Fartbag “in charge”, who is totally ineffectual couldn’t organise a turd in his underpants without the help of Lucy.

  2. kerri

    Trump seeks to raise US kids with the same terror as those in the middle east?

  3. Christopher

    Yes, Binoy, it’s the kind of response I had expected from someone who should be in a mental institution. The US once led the way in taking care of the mentally ill, although I use the word care not in the sense of compassion, just that they were incarcerated out of sight in very large institutions which now decay. The excuses for closures were the same we’ve used here. Much better that they are cared for in the community, by their families. The real reason was cost, not that the USA can’t afford to spend as much as it likes from dollars that it issues, but that is the current framework in which we live in, austerity politics. Now, they lie in the streets, unwanted, without any care or compassion.

    Well said Davey. But he’s their kind of fckwit. I used to think that Americans deserved the sort of politicians they have, but no longer. They are truly fcked and cannot escape their dystopian future. Australians at least have a chance to avert this catastrophe, but only if we organise and make better voting choices at the ballot box. Our main enemy is the media and its bias as too many of your fellow Australians do not have a clue what is going on, just that they have to vote or be fined to not voting.

    I write books about an American hero who has PTS and survivors guilt. I want to go there and promote by books, but am truly put off by all that I read and wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was denied a visa simply for the socialist comments I make here and in other places.

    Arm the teachers? Help me here. Truly FUBAR

  4. helvityni

    Exactly kerri, screaming, bleeding kids in Syria and Sacramento…

    If I were a student or a teacher in US, I’d go on strike, and stay at home….

  5. johno

    Insanity is ruling in the USA. Violence will beget more violence, arming teachers has got to be up there in Trump’s list of dumb-arse ideas.

  6. helvityni

    …and our PM smiled broadly when Trump spoke of arming the teachers…

    Doesn’t he care, being evasive, being non-committal, is not a sign of a competent leader. Does he agree with Trump…?

    I’m sure Merkel or the NZ leader would have said something…

  7. Zathras

    I suppose some students will then bring their own guns to school to protect themselves from problem teachers.

    Perhaps they should force ALL Americans to carry guns in public and let them thin out the herd once and for all.

    It was also disturbing to see Turnbull play the old Howard “mateship” card – meaningless, condescending and gratuitous nonsense.

  8. Glenn Barry

    How about this for an idea – whenever Trump is in the presence of school students – he wears a shirt/top/jacket with the words “Shoot me First” emblazoned across it

    It’s not like he’s a small target anyway.

    If he wants to lead, let him do it by example

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