When I think of gun ownership, I think of a few things. I think of conservatism, I think of the South, and I think about a brand of incessant mass school shootings exclusive to the United States. When I think of these shootings, I think of children, teachers, bloodshed, “thoughts and prayers,” and no meaningful effort made to reform the policies that allow these events to occur. And due to recent support from the White House, I’m compelled to consider two of the above in the same breath: teachers and gun ownership.
My mom has been an educator since I started going to school. She volunteered at my preschool and chaperoned all my field trips until she realized that her attachment to teaching the alphabet and finger painting stemmed from more than just wanting to follow me, her youngest child, around. So she became an elementary school teacher and has been for over a decade now.
As native Chicagoans, the issue of gun violence is far from foreign to us. The school shootings we hear about on the news and the shootings we know occur in the South Side both seem comfortably distant yet painfully close all at once. No one ever thinks that their neighborhood school will have to face a mass shooting. No one ever thinks they’ll be in the wrong part of the city at the wrong time around the wrong people.
In evaluating potential solutions to the epidemic of school shootings, the suggestion to arm teachers—people who have devoted their lives to educating and inspiring—with guns is too absurd to even consider. To think that people like my mom, who became teachers out of a true love for seeing children grow and succeed, would carry a gun in a place as sacred as a classroom changes the entire profession of teaching in my mind. How could students find solace in the people they are supposed to look up to and learn from, in an environment that is supposed to be nurturing, if they see a black mass strapped to their teacher's waist, loaded with bullets that could potentially take a classmate’s life?
Though the most recent slew of school shootings has occurred in elementary and high schools like Sandy Hook in Connecticut and Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida respectively, the threat of shootings on college campuses also looms large. In fact, a study conducted by Citizens Crime Commission of New York City found that the number of campus shootings increased by nearly 153 percent between 2011 and 2016.
As college students, the prospect of a shooting on our campus feels improbable, yet is unfortunately not unfounded. Just over two years ago, UChicago cancelled classes for a day after someone threatened online to commit a shooting on the main quad. Now, policy makers are debating the value of guns in high school, but there’s no reason such a policy discussion couldn’t eventually extend to colleges. We as students not only contend with the possibility of a shooting on our campus, we also have to wonder if maybe someday, our professors too will wield guns.
The thought of the noble profession of teaching being marred by the prospect of violence cannot be entertained. If teachers, who are rightfully considered some of the most understanding, peaceful people in society, possess guns, what stops anyone else from bearing arms, too? The logical culmination of arming all teachers is arming everybody everywhere.
Many pro-gun supporters love the mantra, “Guns don’t kill people—people kill people.” For example, Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, has called for more mental health treatment rather than more gun control. While increasing access to different forms of therapy is never a bad thing, it’s not the easy solution to gun violence that these supporters like to claim. There will always be those with a desire to kill, and the best way to prevent them from doing so is to control access to weapons. More guns will only breed more capacity for violence. As college students in Chicago, and as those who have grown up in an era of near-constant mass shootings, it is necessary that we question and openly discuss the future of guns—even if, sadly enough, it is just for our immediate safety.
Zahra Nasser is a first-year in the College.