- “National Train a Teacher Day” is an annual movement put forth by pro-gun groups meant to teach educators how to use firearms.
- Nearly 300 gun shops around the country will offer free training and safety programs to teachers.
- Pro-gun activists and lobbyist groups have been trying for years to expand the use of firearms in schools by teachers, largely in response to mass school shootings.
- A 2018 CBS poll showed that 44% of Americans support arming teachers. President Trump has advocated for arming teachers in the past.
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Saturday morning, hundreds of teachers are expected to attend training courses to learn how to shoot and handle guns.
In what is being called “Train a Teacher Day,” gun stores around the country are providing teachers free access to firearm training with an implicit nudge towards promoting campus carry gun policies. Nearly 300 shops around the country have signed on to offer free courses to teachers according to The National Train a Teacher Day website.
In a video posted by the National Train a Teacher Day co-administrator Klint Macro, he explained how a firearm can “empower” teachers.
“Whether you want to find defensive training, firearm training concealed carry training, first aid training, basic gun safety training, or any other type that’s offered by one of the instructors that’s volunteering, you will be empowered.” Macro said in the video.
The idea of arming teachers with firearms is not new, but it earned a national audience first with the Columbine shooting in 1999 and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012. Seven years and numerous school shootings later, what was once a small, extreme political ember has ignited into a powerful movement. Fourteen states, including Alabama, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, already allow armed teachers in classrooms. At least four states are preparing to either allow the arming of teachers or loosening restrictions this year.
Supporters of arming teachers in schools argue such an extreme measure is necessary to curtail mass shooters in situations where law enforcement may not be instantly accessible. The idea of arming teachers earned the ear of President Trump, who signaled his support following last year’s school shooting in Sante Fe, Texas, that left 10 dead. Not surprisingly, the president Tweeted about it as well.
Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2018
Those advocating for putting more guns in the hands of teachers and other citizens with firearms to prevent shootings – referred to by the NRA as, “a good guy with a gun” – have sparse factual data to support their position. Anti-gun groups often argue that the number of positive instances where an armed citizen stops a shooter are overshadowed by far more numerous homicides, suicides and tragic accidental shootings.
“As far as arming teachers, the facts argue against it,” Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh Sugarmann told INSIDER. The issue strikes close to home for Sugarmann who said both of his parents were teachers. Arming teachers with firearms, he said, is preparing them to potentially shoot and kill one of their students.
“The gun industry has created a situation where children are placed at risk because of easy access to a full range of firearms and their answer is, let’s give more people guns when it’s a crisis of their own creation.”
Of course, not everyone agrees.
In a CBS Poll conducted one week after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, 68% of Republicans and 44% of all people surveyed said they were in favor of arming more teachers and school officials.
One of those supporters is Victor Lopez, a Florida gun shop owner who’s offering free training course to teachers this weekend. Lopez told INSIDER he’s offering the training because he believes he’s making his community safer.
“I just want to help out our teachers to protect our kids,” Lopez said. “Our kids are our most valuable asset.”
Lopez told INSIDER he’s offering a four-hour introductory course with two hours or live firing free of charge for any type of educator. The introductory course instructs teachers how to properly hold a gun and check to see if it’s loaded, among other “baby steps.”
While he could not provide the exact number of participants, Lopez said the response has been so large his shop had to extend the offer to a second day. To meet the demand of teachers, Lopez said, local police officers have offered to help instruct courses.
The Florida gun shop owner said his support for arming teachers is one of pragmatism over politics. “It doesn’t matter what your political views are, this is Florida,” Lopez said. “There are guns here.”
According to The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,1,941,180 Floridians had concealed carry permits as of December 31, 2018. It’s unclear what the total number is, but it’s certainly much higher.
For critics like Sugarmann, the Train a Teacher day looks less like a gracious act of public service and more like cynical marketing tool by gun lobbyists.
“This [the National Train a Teacher Day] is sponsored by the United States Concealed Carry Association which has their own interest in bringing in new members and the various products that they sell for those who carry concealed weapons,” Sugarmann said. “This is not a benevolent action by some disinterested party. It is basically a commercial enterprise looking for new customers in the form of members.”
Lopez, the gun shop owner, said he himself has children currently enrolled in Florida schools. Though the state does not as of now let teachers carry firearms in a classroom, Lopez said he would support future legislation changing that.
“As long as they have training and as long as they feel comfortable, [with a firearm]” Lopez said. “If you don’t feel comfortable then don’t do it. If they want to defend themselves they should be able to have training.”
But to Sugarmann, the answer is about eliminating guns, not adding them.
“To protect our children we shouldn’t be finding more ways to be putting guns in schools.” Sugarmann said.