Kirby: Blinded by the irony of teachers packing heat

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There were a lot of things to be terrified of when I was in elementary school. Russians, cooties and school lunch topped the list. We were so innocent half a century ago.

It never occurred to me back then that my fifth-grade teacher needed a gun to protect me. It was scary enough that Mrs. Henry carried a paddle to keep order. "Hag in the Hall" Henry mostly used her weapon of choice on us (me).

Of course, this was during the early '60s, a time when adults believed corporal punishment contained essential vitamins. I swear it was on TV: "Spanking! Part of a complete balanced breakfast!"

But it was also a time when lunatics didn't show up at school and shoot entire classrooms of children because of some personal problem they felt obliged to take out on everyone else.

In the 12 years I spent in public schools (including schools in military towns) not once do I recall worrying about that happening. I spent all of that time being afraid of my teachers.

Note: This does not count Russians, whom we hid from by crawling under our desks even though we knew it was a waste of time trying to escape a nuclear blast that way.

Had I seen a teacher with a gun in 1964, I would have figured that some kid had been REALLY late for school and they were taking discipline up a notch. I wouldn't have thought someone else was trying to shoot us.

Later, when cops began being assigned to schools, it wasn't because bad people were coming to get us. It was because the bad people were already there taking physical education and remedial reading right along with us. They were fellow students.

Today, some teachers carry concealed handguns at school. Other teachers take firearms training in order to defend students against the possibility of an armed intruder.

Armed teachers can be a comforting thought relative to situations such as Columbine and Sandy Hook. Will there come a time when one of those is prevented by an armed teacher?

I don't know how I feel about that. Guns are nice to have when you need them (typically when someone else has one), but far too often they seem to end up becoming a problem when they aren't needed.

While we're all waiting for the story about a teacher with a gun saving the day, will we first hear about a teacher killing someone through misadventure? Could happen. There's always a risk when firearms are handled even by individuals trained in their use.

There are 135 names of police officers killed in the line of duty listed on the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial. Of those, 11 are officers who were killed by the accidental discharge of firearms, including their own.

On the other hand, it's rather pointless to tell an ex-soldier turned teacher that he or she doesn't have enough training to carry a concealed weapon to school to protect children.

Then again, you can't get someone to understand deadly force and the situational awareness necessary for a gunfight just by teaching them how to operate a gun.

Maybe I'm just blinded by the irony. In my lifetime school has gone from teachers being able to whack kids to teachers needing guns to keep other people from whacking them.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or —

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