The leaders of the nation's largest teachers unions blasted renewed interest in arming teachers and school staff as a distraction amid the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Training teachers to carry firearms in schools has often been proposed as a deterrent to would-be mass shooters targeting schoolchildren, but the leadership of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have loudly opposed the idea, saying the solution is "not more" guns.
"Our public schools should be the safest places for students and educators, yet the gunshots from a lone shooter armed with a military-grade weapon shattered the physical safety of the school community in Uvalde, Texas," NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement Wednesday. "The powerful gun lobby and their allies did not waste a second after the horrific killing of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School to call for arming teachers. Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence. We need fewer guns in schools, not more. Teachers should be teaching, not acting as armed security guards."
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Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, likewise expressed hostility at arming teachers in schools in a Wednesday tweet.
"I don’t know how many more times I have to say this: The answer to gun violence is not 'more guns,'" Weingarten wrote. "No amount of training can prepare a teacher to go up against an AR-15. An educator's job is to educate."
I don’t know how many more times I have to say this: The answer to gun violence is not “more guns.” No amount of training can prepare a teacher to go up against an AR-15. An educator's job is to educate. https://t.co/GKrtfmIHjM— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) May 25, 2022
In 2020, both the NEA and the AFT released a report with the pro-gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety that called proposals to arm teachers "dangerous."
"The most dangerous idea in the American education system is that arming teachers or school staff is an effective solution to an active shooter incident," the report says. "Everytown, AFT, and NEA strongly urge, as a matter of student safety, that schools reject attempts to arm teachers and instead focus on proven solutions that intervene to prevent shootings."
The nation's two largest teachers unions have instead called for expanded gun control legislation, with the NEA's Pringle asserting that "lawmakers pushing to arm teachers are simply trying to distract us from their failure to prevent another mass shooting."
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"Educators and parents overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff," Pringle said. "Rather than arming educators with guns, we need to be giving them the tools needed to inspire their students. Rather than putting the responsibility on individual teachers, our elected leaders need to pass laws that protect children from gun violence and bring an end to senseless and preventable killings. Americans want the carnage to stop. My message to Congress: What are you going to do?”
Recent polling has found that arming teachers has majority support among the public, with a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after the Tuesday shooting finding that 54% of those surveyed supported armed teachers in schools.
But polling of teachers themselves has found widespread opposition to the idea. In 2018, in the weeks after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a Gallup poll found that 73% of teachers opposed training and arming school staff. Nearly 60% of teachers in the same poll expressed support for some form of gun control.