Three Reasons Why Guns in Schools Are a Bad Idea for Kids

What Women Really Think
April 9 2013 9:00 AM

Three Reasons Why Guns in Schools Are a Bad Idea for Kids

161696622
In Hartford Connecticut, a child protests gun violence

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Last week, the NRA released its National School Shield Task Force Proposal.  At the heart of this proposal is the recommendation that schools be staffed with armed school resource officers (SROs).  The NRA’s recommendation was preceded on March 8, 2013 by a South Dakota law that will allow trained teachers to carry weapons at schools.

As a child psychologist, I find myself thinking, do these people know children?  

Advertisement

Guns in schools are a bad idea for kids.  I offer three reasons why.   

I. Kids get their hands on most everything. 

Ask your mother.  Better yet, recall how you knew where she hid the Christmas presents.  Or where your father kept his gun, if he had one.  My mother hid the presents in a nook at the top of the attic stairs.  My father kept his unloaded shotgun in the right corner at the back of his clothes closet.  The ammunition was in an orange box on a shelf in the same closet. 

In an under-publicized study that appeared in the journal Pediatrics in 2001, Geoffrey Jackman and a group of his associates asked twenty-nine groups of two to three boys, most of whom were around ten-years-old, to wait for fifteen minutes in a room with a one-way mirror.  Two water pistols and an actual .380 caliber handgun were partially concealed in various locations in the room.  The handgun was rigged to make the sound of discharge when the trigger was pulled with sufficient force. 

Forty-eight out the sixty-four boys found the handgun.  Thirty boys handled the gun.  Sixteen boys pulled the trigger.  Approximately half of the boys who found the gun thought it was a toy, or were unsure if it was real.  90% of the boys who handled the gun or pulled the trigger had previously received some sort of gun safety education. 

Kids get their hands on guns, and they know how to use them.  The most up-to-date FBI homicide data indicate that of the 1,448 children who died as a result of gun violence in 2010, 165 of those deaths were at the hands of other children.

Yes, the NRA proposals and the South Dakota law place guns in the hands of trained adults.  But the rules that train and prescribe who holds guns at school will lapse as rules do.  A gun will find its way into a teacher’s desk, briefcase, or purse.  And a child will get his hand on it.   

II.  Kids will be afraid

And they should be.  When violent force is upheld as safety, fear and silence creep in.  I have a patient who recalls his silent car rides with his father who kept two guns under the driver’s seat.  Silently the boy watched, on guard, even though nothing ever happened.  But then again nothing was ever said, and arguably something did happen.  There was no way to talk about fear.  There was no way to talk about inter-dependence and vulnerability. 

So, too, in schools, the presence of guns has the capacity to silence the voice of civics, the voice that helps children learn about what it means to live with one another and to live with feelings and thoughts that buzz along and bump up against others who are different or hard to know.  The presence of guns will silence necessary talk of violence, the ups and downs of childhood rivalries, spats and bullying.

III. And this talk is necessary. 

Many kids, especially boys, learn to handle their problems with their hands, not their minds.  Hence, the elementary school mantra, “Use your words.” Still, children generally make good use of good counsel.  The NRA recommends that SROs be employed not only to serve as guards and law enforcers, but also to serve as educators and informal counselors within the school.  Educators and counselors who are armed leaves us to question not only the adequacy of their training, but also what it means that they counsel from a position of imminent force. 

Engaging children in meaningful dialogue on their level is hard work that requires translation, time, patience, and trust.  How exactly is a kid supposed to understand that a relative stranger with a gun will offer trustworthy counsel?

Children do not live with the same mental boundaries that we as adults live with.  That is why they need us to insure their safety through the work of our minds, not the formative force of a gun.  What message does it send if we suggest through armed school personnel that our minds are not enough?

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.