As partisan divides deepen, arming teachers will not address US gun violence
Published: Jun 04, 2022 04:50 PM
A woman cries Tuesdayas she leaves the Uvalde Civic Center. At least 14 students and 1 teacher were killed after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24. Photo: IC
A woman cries Tuesdayas she leaves the Uvalde Civic Center. At least 14 students and 1 teacher were killed after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24. Photo: IC

Ohio and Louisiana are the two latest states in the US that are considering measures that would permit teachers and other school staff to carry guns in the aftermath of an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas which killed 19 children last month.

The idea that teachers may carry guns at school isn't really new. According to US media reports, at least 28 states, including Texas, currently allow teachers and school staff to be armed in the classroom under certain conditions. It surfaced after the 1999 Columbine shooting that killed 13 and gained momentum following the 2018 Parkland shooting that caused the deaths of 17.

Advocates argue that this could increase school safety. But the result is not that desirable. The figures are telling. According to Education Week, an independent news organization in the US, 119 school shootings have taken place since 2018 and there were already 27 school shootings which led to injuries or deaths in the first half of this year. While the hatred a shooter holds toward society or certain races is unlikely to be deterred by the fact that teachers carry guns, this fact actually exacerbates the sense of insecurity in schools.

Potential risks also come along. Armed teachers may unintentionally discharge their firearm. Students could also have access to firearms that are improperly stored or mishandled. In other words, allowing teachers to carry firearms while working may just lead to new problems instead of addressing the old ones.

The US is trapped in the vicious circle, and the dire situation of gun violence in schools and the other parts of society has never truly been addressed. US President Joe Biden, in a primetime address centred on gun control on Thursday, emotionally plead, "How much more carnage are we willing to accept?" But the fierce partisan struggle may once again disappoint him.

After the school shooting in Texas, Democratic governors are amplifying their calls for greater restrictions on guns, while Republicans are emphasizing more security at schools, which means arming teachers with guns. According to CNN, Senate Democrats are ready to drop some of their most pressing demands to restrict access to guns, and even that may not be enough to reach a deal with Republicans.

Wei Zongyou, a professor at Fudan University's Center for American Studies, , told the Global Times that owning a firearm is an inalienable right granted to American citizens by the US Constitution, and it is also part of the country's "cultural genetics" that permeates the blood of Americans. Democrats have paid more attention to gun control and have been trying to pass gun control bills. However, Republicans are generally opposed to gun control, arguing that it is a restriction on American liberty and a denial or castration of the constitutional rights of American citizens.

This divide is even reflected in whether teachers should carry guns. According to a 2021 poll, among the 43 percent of Americans who supported policies that allow school personnel to carry guns on campus, 66 percent of Republican respondents expressed support, versus just 24 percent of Democratic respondents.

"Such divide mirrors a partisan split that has stymied action in the Congress and many state capitols over how to respond to gun violence in the US," Wei said.

Unfortunately, politicians on both sides of this partisan fight have no intention to address it. Rather, they are taking the issue of gun control as an opportunity to mobilize their own bases as November's midterm elections are drawn closer.

The Democratic and Republican parties are poles apart in a number of issues such as abortion, immigration, social welfare reform, taxation, as well as gun control. Wei believes with gun violence keeping emerging and becoming a chronic disease in US society, Biden and his Democrats will definitely make a big fuss about gun control in the face of Biden's falling popularity and use it as a tool to attack the Republican Party.

"Gun control in the US will remain a tardy and futile political show," Wei said.

No country or government would admit that it accepts carnage, but the problem is whether its system has the ability, driving force and courage to address it. Currently, the US has none, and Americans can only pray they will not fall victim to the next gun violence tragedy, which has become an unmistakably American phenomenon.